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Study: One in Four Kids Exposed to Violence at Home

October 31, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. - Scarier than any Halloween costume is a new report that says at least one in four children has been exposed to physical violence between their parents at some point in their lives, and more than 10 percent of them witnessed this violence in the past year.

The new report is from the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, where Heather Turner is a sociology professor and co-author and co-principal investigator for the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence report. She says the majority of kids were direct eyewitnesses.

"They actually saw the violence happen. I think that's very important. This is really quite a devastating thing for kids, to witness violence between parents."

About half the kids told researchers they yelled at the adults to stop; almost as many said they tried to get away. The study involved more than 4,500 children across the country. The researchers documented their exposure to physical, sexual and emotional abuse - and from multiple sources, including peers, siblings and caregivers.

In today's world, kids often have a variety of caregivers - hence, more opportunities for exposure to domestic violence, Turner adds.

"You know, they have a biological mother and father; they may have stepparents, a grandparent or perhaps an aunt or uncle - and boyfriends or girlfriends of a parent, who may live in the home or spend quite a bit of time in the home."

Male parents and caregivers were identified as the perpetrators of violence almost 70 percent of the time, and female parent figures were identified 23 percent of the time. The study suggests that about 18 million children have been exposed to some form of family violence in their lifetime.

"Children's Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Other Family Violence" is available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/232272.pdf.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR