University Study Finds Gender Differences in How Intimate Partner Violence Affects Children

New research conducted at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the University of Wisconsin finds that boys and girls are affected differently from witnessing domestic violence among their parents or a parent and an intimate partner. The research found that boys who witnessed the violence are more apt to be aggressive and mimic the behavior observed. But girls who witnessed the violence tended to internalize their emotions. While there was a gender difference in the reaction to witnessing domestic violence, both reactions tended to result in poor social development, according to the research.

Researchers tracked how often children saw violence between partners and connected that exposure to behavior problems. The researchers also analyzed responses from the children’s mothers, who were interviewed about their child’s aggressive behaviors and social skills, in such areas as assertiveness, cooperation, responsibility and self-control.

holmes_feat“The exposure occurring when the child was of school age predicted poor social skills for girls but not for boys,” said lead author Megan R. Holmes, an assistant professor in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. But boys tended to be more aggressive and “this aggression tends to isolate and prevent healthy interactions with other children,” Dr. Holmes said.

Dr. Holmes joined the faculty at Case Western Reserve University in 2012. A graduate of San Diego State University, she holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in social welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles.

The research, “Lasting Effect of Intimate Partner Violence Exposure During Preschool on Aggressive Behavior and Prosocial Skills,” was published by the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. It may be accessed here.

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