Childhood should be a happy, carefree time, but it often doesn’t work that way. Children are exposed to all the stresses and strains that affect the families and communities in which they grow up. Recent research shows that this can have lifelong health implications.
In a study conducted by our research group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, we found that one in three children (and their mothers) in the study had experienced intimate partner violence or domestic abuse when children in the Murdoch ‘study turned ten years old.
The findings of the same study, published today in the British Medical Journal’s Archives of Childhood Disorders, show that children exposed to intimate partner violence at the age of ten are two to three times more likely to have a psychiatric diagnosis and / or emotional and behavioral difficulties.
And it not only affects children’s mental health, but their physical health and development. We found that children exposed to intimate partner violence were also two to three times more likely to suffer from tongue disorders, sleep problems, high blood pressure, and asthma.
The mothers in the study completed questionnaires three, six, and 12 months after delivery and at the fourth and tenth years after having their first child.
At age ten, we studied a smaller group of children through face-to-face activities designed to assess their cognitive and language development. We also interviewed mothers to assess their child’s mental health.
How can services and schools help?
Our conclusions have important implications for politics. Up to half of all children in our study who had language difficulties and mental and physical health problems had been exposed to intimate partner violence before the age of ten.
The findings highlight the need for health services and schools to be very attentive to the role that intimate partner violence could play in children’s health, behavior, and language development.
If child health services and schools do not recognize and respond to intimate partner violence, interventions to support children with health and developmental problems are likely to be less effective.
Since one in three families is affected and an even larger proportion of children experience health and language difficulties, this should not be something that health services and schools put in the “basket too hard”.
The health of mothers and children is related
Our research reveals the extent to which the health and well-being of mothers and their children are inextricably linked. In our article published in BMJ Open earlier this year, we showed that mothers who had experienced intimate partner violence during the ten years following the birth of their first child were three to five times more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)) symptoms. And they were about twice as likely to suffer from back pain and incontinence.
This additional burden of ill health experienced by both women and children exposed to intimate partner violence exacerbates other social and economic challenges that women face in trying to achieve security for themselves and their children. It is critical that women and children who need support to heal and recover from the impact of intimate partner violence have access to affordable and culturally appropriate health care.
Studies consistently show that there are many barriers that women must overcome, including shame, fear of judgment and the cost and availability of health care and other support services to regional communities. For women who do not have English as a first language and Aboriginal women, there are additional cultural, linguistic, and systemic barriers. System-level barriers include the persistence of cultural stereotypes, the limited availability of language services, and experiences of discrimination in seeking attention and support.
Achieve the best possible results
While the type and severity of adversity can overwhelm some children, there is evidence of individual skills (such as the ability to regulate emotions), extended family relationships, and supportive school environments that foster feeling. of membership support children’s resilience.
Communities, schools, and health services have an important role to play in fostering the resilience of children and helping mothers access the care of their children when needed.
Anyone at risk of domestic and domestic violence and / or sexual assault can call for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, either online or by calling 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). The information is also available in 28 languages other than English.
If this article has caused you any concerns or concerns you may have, please call Lifeline at 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636.
Stephanie Brown, Senior Principal Investigator, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Deirdre Gartland, Researcher and Co-Leader Streaming Families Stream, Intergenerational Health Research Group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.