The Link Between Child Abuse
And Domestic Violence
A growing body of research points to a definite link between adult domestic violence and child abuse. These connections are pervasive. Forty-five to seventy percent of battered women in shelters report that their batterers have also committed some form of child abuse. Even using the more conservative figure, child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in households where adult domestic violence is also present. Women who have been beaten by their spouses are, in turn, reportedly twice as likely as other women to abuse a child. It is also estimated that 3.3. million to 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. Many child witnesses of domestic violence experience increased problems themselves.
These connections make it important for those working in the field of child abuse and neglect to understand the connection between spousal abuse and child abuse, and to respond with treatment and protective resources that recognize the link. Cooperation between professionals working with battered women and abused or neglected children is essential. In practice, formal connections between the two fields are not often in place. They are sorely needed, however, beginning with the initial intake contact with the abused child or battered women, and continuing through assessment of the precipitating incident and family interaction, treatment planning, intervention strategies, and evaluations of client progress.
A variety of family dynamics are at work in homes where spouse abuse leads to child abuse or neglect. Sometimes a child is the unintended victim when he or she attempts to intervene in an attack on a parent. In other instances, a child is accidentally struck by a blow directed at the mother. However, many children are deliberate targets in violent households. The severity of child abuse, and the manner in which children are abused bears a strong resemblance to the type of maltreatment experienced by their mothers.