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Children Witnessing Violence May Be More Aggressive

Aggression in school-age children may begin in those 3 years old and younger who witnessed violence between their mothers and partners, according to researcher Megan Holmes, PhD.

Holmes, assistant professor of social work at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, studied 107 children who were exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) in their first three years of life but not again after age 3. Their behavior was compared to that of 339 children who never witnessed IPV.

From age 3 to 5, children who had witnessed violence showed no behavioral differences from those who had not. But those exposed to violence began showing increased aggression by the time they reached elementary school age, Holmes reported in the spring issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

By knowing about the delayed effect, social workers can better assess 3- to 5-year-olds in homes with domestic violence and develop interventions to help children work through potential aggression.