Domestic violence against children is a serious problem that affects millions of children worldwide. The impact of violence on children can be profound and have long-term negative effects on their physical, mental and social development. This article explores the impact of violence on children, the prevention of violence in families and the resources available to support children who have experienced violence.
Impact of violence on children
Children exposed to domestic violence are at higher risk for a variety of problems. Research shows that the use of physical punishment by parents is associated with many negative social outcomes, such as aggression, behavioural problems at school, lack of peer acceptance, criminality and delinquency. Children's cognitive and intellectual development is also affected by the use of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is associated with insecure attachment and poorer relationships between children and parents, as well as a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Prevention of violence in families
Promoting non-violent discipline in the family is an important step in preventing violence against children. Parents and caregivers can use positive reinforcement such as praise and rewards to encourage good behaviour. They can also set clear rules and expectations for behaviour and use logical consequences when rules are broken. It is important to communicate with children in a calm and respectful manner and model non-violent conflict resolution skills. Parents can also seek resources and support from community organisations or professionals if they need help managing their child's behaviour.
Resources available to support children
There are many resources available for children who have experienced violence or abuse. These include counselling services, support groups and hotlines that provide crisis intervention and referrals to local resources. In some cases, legal support may also be available to help children and their families navigate the legal system. It is important that children who have experienced violence or abuse receive appropriate care and support to help them cope with their experiences.
The situation in countries in the DACH region
The situation of domestic violence against children varies in different countries. Violence in Swiss families is unfortunately not a relic of bygone times, but still a sad reality. Almost half of the parents surveyed in Switzerland resort to parenting methods that can be classified as physical or psychological violence, according to a survey by the University of Freiburg. Almost 40 percent of parents have already used corporal punishment against their children, while almost one in six regularly resorts to psychological violence. What is worrying is that psychological violence is often considered legitimate: One third of respondents consider it acceptable to ignore the child, while almost 40 percent consider yelling or screaming at the child permissible. When it comes to harsher physical punishments, mothers and fathers agree that these should not be allowed.
In Germany, about 31% of respondents in a 2017 study reported moderate to severe abuse and neglect experiences in childhood. In Austria, far fewer parents parent with violence compared to recent decades. Thanks to newer values and laws across Europe, 30% of Austrians now raise their children free of corporal punishment.
The situation in Romania
Although domestic violence has been prohibited by law in Romania since 2004, it remains a major problem. Physical violence against children is still widespread, 46% of children reported being beaten by their parents in 2021, and 5% by teachers as a disciplinary measure. 20% of parents still consider corporal punishment appropriate. School closures and social isolation during the pandemic have put children at higher risk of becoming victims of abuse and neglect. However, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics on the incidence of domestic violence against children in Romania, as many cases go unreported.
Overall, domestic violence against children is a serious problem in many countries and it is important that governments take action to help children who are or may be victims of such violence. This may include providing protection and support measures for children and families, as well as raising public awareness of the issue.