Witnessed violence

The recognition and detection of witnessed violence entails the recognition and detection of direct intra-family violence, in particular ill-treatment of the mothers of such children.

“Child witnessed violence in the family is defined as the experience by the child of any form of maltreatment, carried out through acts of physical, verbal, psychological, sexual and economic violence, on reference figures or other actively significant adult and child figures. This includes violence carried out by children on other children and/or other family members, and abandonment and mistreatment of pets. The child may experience such acts directly (when they occur in his or her field of perception), indirectly (when the child is aware of them), and/or perceive their effects”. (CISMAI- Italian Coordination of Services against Child Abuse and Ill-treatment, 2003)

Domestic violence, both direct and indirect, has negative effects on the boys and girls who experience it:

Physical development: children under severe stress and psychological violence may experience growth deficits and delays in psycho-motor development as well as visual impairment.

Cognitive development: exposure to violence can damage the child’s neuro-cognitive development with negative effects on intellectual skills, self-esteem and empathy.

Behaviour: constant fear, guilt, sadness and anger due to a sense of helplessness and an inability to react are consequences that have an impact on the child exposed to violence. In addition, phenomena such as anxiety, increased impulsiveness, alienation and difficulty in concentration can arise. Long-term effects include more and less severe cases of depression, suicidal tendencies, sleep disorders and eating disorders.

Socialisation skills: Witnessing domestic violence influences the ability of children to form and maintain social relationships.


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