Preschoolers understand threats in households with violence

Oct 27, 2011 By Jared Wadley

(PhysOrg.com) -- Preschoolersers are aware and understand threats when they see their mother harmed by violent conflicts at home, a new University of Michigan study finds.

The study explored what factors influence children's comprehension and response when violence occurs.

Researchers evaluated —conflicts that can be physical or sexual—in the past year for 116 mother-child groups with known violence in the homes. The were 4 to 6 years old.

Few studies have looked at children's observations of violence as young as age 5, and the new U-M findings are one of the first to assess outcomes for kids as young as age 4, said Laura Miller, a psychology graduate student and study's lead author.

Mothers and children were interviewed to assess the level of violence at home and their mental health. Children also discussed violent conflict between their mother and another adult.

Results suggest that preschool-aged children are able to meaningfully respond to statements about their parents' conflicts. Girls, more than boys, tend to blame themselves for violence in the home.

"The more children observe intimate partner conflict, the more likely they are to feel threatened themselves," Miller said.

The findings suggest that intervention for children should target how they feel about their own perceived involvement, and ways to make them safe.

Mothers reported annually an average of 50 acts of physical violence, 88 instances of psychological aggression, 24 acts of sexual violence, and had an average of 14 injuries as a result of physical violence.

Young mothers reported higher levels of overall violence. Mothers also indicated they had high levels of depression and injury rates, with 82 percent of the sample reporting at least one violence-related injury in the past year.

The study—which Miller co-authored with Kathryn Howell, a post-doctoral psychiatry student, and Sandra Graham-Bermann, a professor of psychology and psychiatry—appears in the current issue of the Journal of Interpersonal .

Explore further: To improve STEM diversity, fix higher education, scholar says

Related Stories

Violence against women impairs children's health

Sep 11, 2008

Violence against women in a family also has serious consequences for the children's growth, health, and survival. Kajsa Åsling Monemi from Uppsala University has studied women and their children in Bangladesh and Nicaragua ...

Why are some young victims of domestic violence resilient?

Apr 29, 2009

More than 10 million U.S. children witness domestic violence yearly, resulting in a range of emotional and behavioral problems. A new study suggests that the reason some of these children are resilient is because of their ...

Recommended for you

Public boarding school—the way to solve educational ills?

13 hours ago

Buffalo's chronically struggling school system is considering an idea gaining momentum in other cities: public boarding schools that put round-the-clock attention on students and away from such daunting problems as poverty, ...

Study finds we think better on our feet, literally

Apr 24, 2015

A study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health finds students with standing desks are more attentive than their seated counterparts. In fact, preliminary results show 12 percent ...

Improving transfer of migrant remittances

Apr 24, 2015

Millions of people work abroad as maids, construction workers and other low-wage laborers. The money they send back home is essential to their families, helping them start businesses, send children to school ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.