POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 87 What is the impact on education and social skills? • Children who witness their mother being abused by their father or other male partner tend to have lowered school achievement. They may have increased school absences because they are needed at home to look after siblings when the mother is incapacitated, or they may refuse to go to school because they do not want to be separated from their mother. At all ages, they may not pay attention at times because they are preoccupied and anxious. They are more often truant. When at school they may be withdrawn and/or aggressive. • Children from violent homes tend to have lowered social skills. • Abusive homes are often socially isolated and children may be taught to be secretive about the abuse. What are specific effects at different ages, and for girls and boys? • Very young children, even infants, are seriously affected, and may suffer problems with sleeping, weight gain and excessive crying. • Pre-schoolers display effects such as anxiety, clingingness and aggressive behaviour. • Children beyond the infant or pre-school age often feel responsible to try to intervene in the abusive situation. • Children aged 6 to 10 tend to have school and peer relationship problems. • Teenage children tend to be truant, run away or drop out of school, and they tend to become involved in violent dating relationships. Teens may, in some cases, use denial as a coping method. • Some, but not all, studies find that girls who witness violence have a greater tendency to become withdrawn and depressed, while boys have a greater tendency to act aggressively. However, these problems are present in both boys and girls. • Boys, especially at age 11 or older, who identify strongly with their fathers may imitate his actions by being aggressive towards their mother and other women. Are all children affected to the same degree? • Children whose mothers cope especially well and have strong social support will fare better. Children who have areas of strength in school, social relationships and sports activities are also better off. • Children who witness abuse and are also themselves abused tend to fear the worst. Links between witnessing violence and learning to be violent • Children from violent homes are being taught that violence is an effective way to gain power and control over others. • Children from violent homes are more prone to accept excuses for violent behaviour, and have increased risk of acting aggressively toward peers and adults. • Witnessing violence greatly increases the chances that a boy will grow up to act violently with dating and/or marital partners. For girls, it increases the chances that she will accept violence which occurs in her dating and/or marital relationships. What can be done to help children who witness wife assault? A coordinated community response, with all professionals and service agency personnel trained to understand issues of woman abuse and its effects on children, is needed if battered women and their children are to be adequately protected. Public awareness of the issues involved is also important. Early identification and appropriate referral of battered women can assist in preventing future harm to these women and their children. Legal/policing issues When the legal system and police effectively protect women and their children, the trauma for children is lessened. Current issues include effective and easily accessed protection orders; quick access to the matrimonial home with the batterer removed; and the enforcement of probation conditions and anti-stalking laws. Appropriate penalties for wife assault all directly affect children's safety, sense of security and adjustment after abuse. Child protection Recognizing that witnessing wife assault constitutes emotional and psychological abuse is an important first step in protecting children. At the same time, support to the mother, without victim blaming, is essential. Six of ten provinces in Canada stipulate in legislation that children who witness woman abuse can be found in need of protection. (However, child protection agencies are overwhelmed with existing caseloads and may not have adequate resources for these cases.) (...Wife Abuse - The Impact on Children continued) (continued...)