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Domestic Violence and the Child


The issue this study will address is the impact of violence in the student’s home on their academic performance. To address this problem, the purpose of this study will be to identify signs that a child is experiencing violence in the home as well as how teachers and other adults in the student’s life react to the issue. We also want to find the strategies in which teachers might use to interact with the child and the child’s family when there might be a suspicion that the child is suffering from either witnessing or being a victim of this violence. It is important to note that the child might not be the only one suffering but maybe she or he sees events of violence in their home, making this have a traumatic impact on a child which might have a big effect on a child as they go to school.

To gather data, we plan to conduct interviews with teaching professionals as well as other school personnel, who have encountered students who have suffered violence at home. The interviews will be transcribed and analyzed. We will then divide the recorded data into three categories: students who encountered direct violence and showed academic changes, students who witnessed violence and have been negatively impacted on their academics and lastly those who were directly encountered or witnessed violence and showed no academic change. Through interviews with teachers and school personnel, we plan to gather information that will lead to a better understanding of: identifying children that are encountering violence, ways to interact with children who have experienced violence in the home without frightening them or getting them into trouble, and ways to help them succeed in the future.

Literature Review

Children being exposed to domestic violence can have a variety of effects on a child. However, schools are the one place where children feel safe and are away from the violence they are experiencing in their homes. Our topic is how domestic violence affects a child’s academic performance, and the strategies that can be used to help a child cope with these experiences. We were interested in finding strategies that can be used by school staff to identify and approach the situation, since school is the one place the child may feel comfortable to open up about what they may be going through. The following articles provide statistics and insight towards identifying domestic abuse, outcomes of domestic abuse as well as intervention strategies to assist a child that has experience domestic abuse. These articles emphasize the effects of domestic abuse on a child as well as the importance of providing the child and family with the appropriate help necessary.

Statistics & Identifying

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2001), of the children surveyed, 38.7% of them had experienced some type of victimization in the past year. This data was collected through interviews, telephone surveys and questionnaires. The survey questions also addressed witnesses to violence. After a year, the survey participants were asked to answer follow up questions. Of the original participants, 49% responded to the follow up surveys. This information is important because it gives us an idea of how the magnitude of children are faced with violence every day as well as the various ways to help them cope.

According to Fickelhor (2011), there are many different ways a teacher or school  professional can identify and help a student who has experienced violence or trauma. There are two types of trauma that can affect a child: physical and mental. Some red flags to look for are children who refuse to go to places that remind them of certain events, children who seem emotionally numb, children who show little to no reaction to a traumatic event and children who show extreme or dangerous reaction. Children who react in these ways may need extra help to overcome the trauma. These children and adolescents can benefit from therapy, and also establishing new routines and coping mechanisms to help the child feel in control. Children who have experienced any type of trauma should be encouraged to talk about their feelings, but never feel pressured or feel that their feelings are going to be used against them. While some children may react to an event immediately showing changes in behavior, other reactions may appear much later in other children. Reactions to trauma also vary greatly by age. Although the National Institute of Mental Health addressed many ways to identify and assist students who have faced natural disasters and terror attacks, there is not much information about children who have experienced violence in the home. This is important to know because what happens at home often has an effect on a child’s behavior and performance in school.


The study by Eckenrode, Laird & Doris was conducted in order to find out what are the negative outcomes from abuse on children who attend school. Studies found out that children who are abused are more likely to perform badly as well as to have discipline problems which lead to referrals and suspension from school. Test scores have also proved that children who are abused have issues in achieving good results as well as grades in school in areas such as Math and English. Other studies have proved that children who are abused are many times bullies toward other children. Not only children are performing badly in school but they also have many psychological problems as well as behavior problems, therefore there is an extremely negative impact on children who are abused regarding their education.

Assistance & Intervention

This article (Thompson 2012) focuses on how schools provide help to children who are abused, by creating support programs for children as well as assistance including psychologists and the school-mental health programs that are offered to children. When children have assistance they are able to rely on someone, the research show ways to help children such as by drawing to show their emotions and expressing themselves in order for professionals to help them. They believe in structured interventions, play therapy in order to find out why and if the child is being abused and to provide them the best help thanks to their school.

Chanmugam and Teasley focus on the importance to understand the experiences, need, and resources related to children exposed to adult intimate partner violence, also known as adult IPV.  They looked at the types of exposure, risk and resilience factors, the issues faced at school and the strategies and resources for help. Aside from school social workers, it is also important that school staffs are aware and trained in IPV-related policies and procedures as well as protocol for protection and custody orders. They explain the risk factors towards children, while some children may be resilient at home, they can struggle in the classroom and among their peers. For others, school has become the only aspect of their life they have control over and it is their safe place. These types of children will excel in school, although they may be encountering abuse at home. They also provide resources for social workers to refer parents to.

Pepler, Catallo and Moore look at the forms of intervention for children exposed to domestic violence. They learn that 3 to 5 children in every classroom is exposed to domestic violence and these children, if males, are at a three times higher risk of becoming abusers themselves. These children are also at risk for both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. They first look at all relationships the child may experience within the family, school, peers and community. They then focus on a peer counselling program for children exposed to family violence and its effect on children’s behavioral and psychological adjustment. Through these studies, they found that the peer group counselling had a positive effect and provided support to children exposed to family violence.

Through these articles, we learned that children can experience both physical and mental trauma. The academic outcomes of children who experience domestic violence can include, struggling academically while others may succeed academically. They also provide the reactions and behaviors that teachers should be on the lookout for to identify if a child is experiencing domestic violence at home. The intervention strategies provided include play therapy, structured interventions, peer group counseling as well as providing parents with assistance necessary. They also emphasize the importance of training school staff in protocol and procedures for domestic violence related situations.

Although there have been many developments in research about the effects of violence on children, we plan to further explore the techniques and delve deeper into the ways we can identify and assist children in coping with violence. This research is important because children with unresolved trauma are more susceptible to violence in the future.

Ethical Considerations

Protection From Harm

There are no unforeseen risks of participating in the study, as all information collected will be kept confidential between teachers and social workers. In order to make children that may feel overwhelmed by the subject matter more comfortable, these activities will be done within the classroom where the child may feel comfortable and safe to discuss what they may be dealing with at hom.

Participation of Children

The participation of children into our research is extremely important. Therefore we will try to work with children in schools once we are extremely sure that they might suffer from abuse, once this is proved we will gather the children and ask them to draw pictures.

Data Security

Teachers will have an observation notebook for each child they suspect is dealing with abuse. there will be individual books for each child and the only people with access to these books will be the teachers and social workers. At the end of every school day the books will be locked in a storage locker.

Dissemination and Use of Research

Our research will help find out if children are abused and whether ot not it has an impact on their school performance. This could be achieved with the help of both children as well as faculty. The research will provide answers to understand why abuse may affect the child’s education and this could be a great opportunity for people who are interested in this matter. This research will also be extremely helpful to understand the causes of abuse and the impact that it has on children as this topic is constantly researched. If the research is conducted well by asking the right questions we will gather the results we want.

Data Collection

When it comes to researching child abuse and if the child is being abused or not there are several ways to research this issue. Drawings could be good as it can give the researcher the understanding by looking at what the child is drawing because drawings are able to show a deeper meaning. Drawings can help counselors understand what a child is going through by their drawing and the explanation of it, it’s important that as a research one could build a relationship with the child in order for them to feel safe. Safety is extremely important in order to achieve good results in the research process. A child’s drawing is an indicator of their emotions, self-esteem and social competence as well as other aspects. Children would mostly draw in relation to the situation they are going through and many children are able to express their emotions in drawings rather than verbally. According to the research “Interpreting children’s human figure drawings” Children prefer art activities as it’s easier for them to engage on them and share their feelings. Some children would draw sad or happy moments and it’s also important to see the amount of drawings the child would make and the emotions that could be found in each drawing to understand the emotions that the child is having. In order to gather more data on this topic, we also will use the method of dramatic play. According to the “Steps to Engaging Young Children in Research”, dramatic play can provide us with an insight into children’s lives”. Through this method, children are able to give insight while detaching themselves from the topic. A third method we are interested in using is the use of dolls during free play. This method is useful when talking to older children about abuse they witness at home or have been victims of. According to the article titled “The Use of Dolls to Interview Young Children: Issues of Symbolic Representation” the use of dolls is helpful when observing children that have dealt with abuse and giving them the opportunity to self-represent through the dolls.

Population and Sample

The population that we are interested in studying includes elementary and junior high school children between the ages of 8 and 14. We will be using a participatory approach in collecting our data because children must agree to talk about the abuse they witness at home. We will have a sampling frame of children that deal with abuse within their home. This sample will have categories of children that deal with abuse and excel in school and the category of children that deal with abuse and struggle in school. We will use a population of about 10 children for each category. This sampling will be a purposive sampling because in order to study these children, as researchers, we must have prior knowledge in knowing that these children have dealt with abuse at home.

Study Site

The site of our study will be within the schools. The schools will be selected purposefully based on the reports of children coming from homes of domestic abuse. In order to get the most results for our study, we will study two schools, one in a low income neighborhood and one in a higher income neighborhood. In order to gain access to the schools we will gain permission from each school’s principal and inform them of the reasons for our study.

Data Collection Procedures

We will gather the children from our sample and create three research stations. These three stations include drawing, dramatic play and dolls. Each station will have 5-6 children at a time with multiple researchers at each station. The first station will be a drawing station where children will be given paper and crayons and asked to draw how they feel when they are at home or when they are being abused. The second station will be introduced to the children as an acting or drama workshop. Following a prompt given by the researcher, the participants will come up with a skit or roleplay about ways they handle conflicts within their family. This gives the researcher an opportunity to see the types of violence children have been exposed to in the home, as well as other ways that families may handle conflicts in the participant’s household.  While the participants are acting, the researcher will either be recording the skits or taking detailed notes on the behaviors displayed. The last station will be an individual station where each child sits with a researcher and is given a doll. The child will be asked questions in order to determine the areas  of their body they were being abused in. Rather than having to answer the questions, the child can point to the body part on the doll.

Data Analysis Plan

We will be analyzing the children’s drawings by lookings for dark colors as well as the images and story told by the child when asked about their drawings. colors that are dark like red and black are what we would be looking for, also images that represent monsters or something bad are things that we will be looking for. We will be analyzing children during dramatic play by We will be analyzing the children’s drawings by lookings for dark colors as well as the images and story told by the child when asked about their drawings. Colors that are dark like red, blue and black are what we would be looking for, also images that represent monsters or something bad are things that we will be looking for. We will be analyzing children during dramatic play by paying close attention to how the child plays. If the child becomes aggressive and may reenact an event of abuse they have witnessed or experienced at home. We will analyze how children interact with the dolls by looking for whether or not the child self identifies with the doll and by asking questions about abuse witnessed that the child can answer by pointing to the corresponding body parts of the doll.

As we obtain the results and see if the child was abused or not we will be able to send those results in to take further action and solve the problem. If the results that we get are that the child was abused by their parent or any family member the case will be sent to the authority in order to protect the child and find ways to either take control over the situation by providing a better household for the child or other alternatives that will be good for the child and finally end up with the abuse. If the results state that the child was not being abused then we as a research team could find ways to ask different questions or perform different experiments as meaning that we will follow other research options rather than the one we used.paying close attention to how the child plays. If the child becomes aggressive and may reenact an event of abuse they have witnessed or experienced at home. We will analyze how children interact with the dolls by looking for whether or not the child self identifies with the doll and by asking questions about abuse witnessed that the child can answer by pointing to the corresponding body parts of the doll.


More qualitative data and different approaches in collect indicators will prove whether children are witnessing abuse or not. Through our literature review we found that it would be extremely hard to determine whether children are experiencing abuse or not as some studies express that some children feel safe at school and perform better academically and other sources stresses that children who face or witness abuse perform badly in their academics.

The most productive methods for figuring out whether children are experiencing abuse are dramatic play, using dolls to describe interactions between family members and through other art projects that could help teachers and social workers understand the child’s feelings. Using these methods to determine whether a child is being exposed to abuse is ideal because children are often shy when describing events that are scary or intimidating to them, therefore these methods are ideal to give the child a warm and understanding environment where they could express their feelings.. Using methods that allow the child to be creative encourages freedom of thought process which is necessary for expression.


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