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Study: One in Four Kids Exposed to Violence at Home

November 4, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - At least one in four children has been exposed to physical violence between their parents at some point in their lives, a new report finds, and more than 10 percent witnessed this violence in the past year.

Heather Turner, a sociology professor and co-author of the report released by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, says the large majority of children were direct eyewitnesses.

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

About half the surveyed children 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 around the nation. The researchers documented their exposure to various forms of violence, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse - and from multiple sources, including peers, siblings and caregivers.

In today's world, Turner says, children often have a variety of caregivers - and, thus, more opportunities for exposure to domestic violence.

"They have a biological mother and father. They may have step-parents, 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 lifetimes.

The report, "Children's Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Other Family Violence," is online at ncjrs.gov.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA