By: Jozie M.
Domestic Violence and its Ultimate Effects on Children
A number of studies have shown that being exposed to domestic violence can have various effects on a student’s education. In 2009, a study conducted by economists Scott Carrell of the University of California-Davis and Mark Hoekstra at the University of Pittsburgh, found that children exposed to domestic violence not only have more disciplinary problems at school, but they also perform considerably worse in math and reading than other students. Further studies have shown that students involved in extracurricular activities tend to deal with those domestic violence issues a lot better than students who aren’t, according to Maida Baez, DV Liaison-SJFR Supervisor at Center for Family Services. Although we know the problem of domestic violence is virtually impossible to tame as a whole due to cases that are never acknowledged– finding a solution that will condense the effects that domestic violence has on children is a start. Knowing that students involved in extracurricular activities tend to cope with DV better than students who are not, should make it easier to work out a plan that can benefit them both in and out of school.
According to several conducted studies by the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV), women with fewer resources, and/or who are living below the poverty line, are at the utmost risk for domestic violence and lifetime abuse. Considering the fact that Camden, NJ is one of the poorest cities in America, and the poorest in the state of New Jersey, based on Census Bureau reports, it reasonable to suggest that the rates of domestic violence in the city are undoubtedly higher than most. Not to mention, if the income per capita in Camden is 65.9% less than the New Jersey average and 54.1% less than the national average, this presents yet another disadvantage for students in Camden. While public schools provide students with a free education, there are still other resources necessary to receive a good education; some of which materials that may be harder to obtain in a household with an income of $12,171 as opposed to the states average income. Materials like notebooks, pencils, and uniforms, money for school trips, computers, and access to the internet are all expected to be provided by a student’s parents not the school, which may be quite the challenge for a single parent raising four children on one salary. Also, if the income per capita in NJ is that much less than the rest of NJ, there is less money being collected in taxes and even less being used by schools to fund extracurricular activities.
If children exposed to DV aren’t involved in extracurricular activities then what are they doing? Are they even attending school on a daily basis? If they are, are they going straight home after school, or are they taking other routes to avoid what awaits them in their homes? Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable Services, an organization that educates the general public on DV, found that:
Children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away. “Effects of Domestic Violence on Children.” Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. The Sudbury Foundation, 2 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
According to truancy officials, truancy of the school has been openly recognized as one of the early warning signs for children on the road to criminal activity, social separation, or educational failure due to suspension, expulsion, and/or dropping out. Unceasing school absences have been proven by several studies to be another risk factor for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and school dropout. If many truancy cases somehow link back to students who deal or have dealt with domestic violence, it is sufficient evidence to say that domestic violence is one of the many causes for all of these things.
The effects of DV could affect every child differently. How do those students who go straight home after school study and complete assignments in that environment? Scott Carrell and Mark Hoekstra also found that domestic violence can have a negative effect on a child’s classroom peers, resulting in decreased test scores and increased disciplinary problems. Disciplinary problems only cause students to spend more time in the school office or at home due to suspension than in a classroom receiving their education. Violence in the home could keep children up at night due to the loud arguing and fighting, causing the child to lose sleep which could ultimately affect their focus in class the next day.
When young boys witness their father or a father figure in their household abuse women, or other family members, they are more likely to repeat similar acts, whether it be as a child bullying other students in school, or even abuse a partner of their own later in the future, according to Domestic Violence Roundtable Services. Other possible cases are that the child simply acts out as a result of not receiving that attention they desire, or require. If a child has the knowledge that school protocol is to contact a parent or guardian in the case of such situations they may possibly gain the hope that their parent(s) will then be more attentive to the child. While this process may work in favor of some students, it may not be the best route for every child. In many cases of domestic violence, whenever a family member is abused, the chances that the abuser may also be abusive toward the child/children are usually high according to DVRS. This may result in violent reprimanding of the child causing more than just mental effects for the child by that point.
Witnessing DV from a young age can cause children to find that violence in and or out of the home is simply normal behavior. This could cause them to commit acts of violence as well, because they are unaware of the consequences, or even just indifferent toward what it means to be an abuser. When those children aren’t taught how to cope with DV they may not know how to report it and or feel intimidated to do so. Others may try to intervene which could be very dangerous. Children that have been properly informed on how to handle these situations may just be too intimidated to contact authorities. Not knowing if authorities will displace the abuser immediately is one of the reasons why children may fear mentioning the abuse.
Exposure to domestic violence can cause students in their teens to run away from home, only putting them at risk for other dangers. Finding a way to increase funding for extracurricular activities could help students find an escape to their household issues without having to literally escape from home. Spending additional time during after school programs with staff and other school administration could be a way to get students to feel more comfortable talking to an adult other than a family member, about their situation at home and could possibly help the school contact the appropriate authorities like DYFS to be involved in the case.
It is sensible to say that a large majority of these factors could be prevented if these children had other role models involved in their lives that they could look up to. After school programs and extracurricular activities not only keep the child out of the home and out of harm’s way for more time in the day, but they can also be a help to students whom cannot go to their parents or other family members for help with homework and other school projects because of the circumstances in their home. Having the option to participate in extracurricular activities would not only keep them away from the home and violence throughout the day but will also allow them to build a bond with other adults that supervise the activities. Having positive influences like mentors, coaches, and school staff could be just what these children need to overcome the everyday challenges they face due to DV. This may also help them work up the courage to speak up about any issues in the home giving school officials the opportunity to take action and contact the appropriate authorities.
Though some may argue that funding is not the primary reason for lack of extracurricular activities in Camden, it seems as though if money for extracurricular activities is being used for other things, then reallocating funds helps establish more programs and activities for students. If the money given to Camden city schools is budgeted properly funds could be used for more sports, youth groups, clubs, and activities. Coaches, mentors, and group leaders act as positive role models for youth in crisis. The more students exposed to domestic violence that we can get involved in other activities outside of their homes, the more likely that we could prevent them from going in the wrong direction and the closer school officials get to contacting appropriate authorities to take them out of the tragic predicament of domestic violence.
“Effects of Domestic Violence on Children.” Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. The Sudbury Foundation, 2 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.