Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education, Director Daniel J. Flannery, PhD and Deputy Director Mark Singer, PhD have co-written an article entitled, “Here’s How Witnessing Violence Harms Children’s Mental Health,” appearing in the online journal The Conversation.
“Children who report high levels of exposure to violence (either as witness or victim) report the highest levels of depression, anger and anxiety,” they write. “Our study with children in grades three to eight who witnessed someone being hit, slapped, or punched found that 12 percent of these children reported levels of anxiety that could require treatment. Similarly, six months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a survey of over 8,000 New York City students in grades four through 12 showed that nearly 30 percent of children reported symptoms of anxiety or depression.”
Studies have shown that children who witness or are victimized by violence are more aggressive toward others and show problematic levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. “We have consistently found relationships between violence exposure and trauma symptoms, whether we surveyed children in schools, youth in the community or juveniles who were receiving treatment as a result of diversion from the prison system. Adolescents exposed to high levels of violence reported higher levels of anger and depression. They also reported higher rates of wanting to hurt or kill themselves compared to adolescents in lower violence exposure groups. Further, such children are also at a risk of perpetrating violence against others.”