‘Domestic violence highly damaging for children’, says Dr Shubhangi Parkar from KEM Hospital

A new study by the University of Toronto found that the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among adults who had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence during childhood was 17.3 percent as compared to 2.3 percent among those without this childhood adversity.
Dr Shubhangi R Parkar, Prof. and Head of the Department of Psychiatry of KEM Hospital, has been working in the field of suicide and mental health for the past thirty years. She spoke about the need for early identification and intervention of children exposed to domestic violence. 

Dr Shubhangi Parkar spoke on the impact of exposure to domestic violence  on children
Dr Shubhangi R Parkar

Q: Are children exposed to domestic violence prone to suicidal tendencies?
Dr Shubhangi Parkar: More than imitating their parental violent behaviour, these various adversities affect children’s socialisation process. Children encode negative beliefs in their memory and they often start believing, feeling and acting in a way they perceive their socialisation.
Q: What impact does this kind of violent socialisation have on children?
Dr Shubhangi Parkar: These children feel very scared, insecure and anxious. Sometimes they hold their siblings and mother responsible for the violence at home. They always keep feeling unsafe about siblings, mother, family members and about themselves as well. They feel lonely, extremely helpless, worthless, guilty and remorseful. Quite often they feel very angry and dejected. Inter-personal relationships in a family exposed to violence are very chaotic and perplexed.  Such children are pre-occupied about violent behaviour at home all the time.
Q: Does it reflect in their academic performance?
Dr Shubhangi Parkar: Even at school, these children are not attentive in the class. They are always pre-occupied with thoughts of domestic violence at home. They lack concentration and attention. They are not actively involved in the academic process. They feel guilty and ashamed that they are not able to maintain their academic performance. Their self-esteem and confidence decreases and they feel they are lagging behind the class.
Q: Do these children get into drugs, alcohol, etc?
Dr Shubhangi Parkar: These children get prone to addictive behaviour. They are not able to cope up with the stress at home and performance anxiety at school. Their cognitive skills deteriorate. Frequently, these children show signs of anxiety and depression. They are not able to mix-up with other children and find themselves lonely and become irritable and express aggression with friends and even with siblings at home.
These children as they become insecure, feel neglected and victimised, then they start getting away from school peers and they get into different kind of peers who are already in the addictive behaviour mode as they feel acceptable in this circle.
Psychological and emotional trauma is so much that these children start going away from their families. They stay with children who are also isolated from their families and then they indulge in drug addiction and many other behavioural problems. They slowly get into anti-social behaviour and juvenile delinquency. The intensity of the violence can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder among children.
Q: Do children leave their home in these conditions?
Dr Shubhangi ParkarMany of these victims of domestic violence get away from their families and land up being street children. They also become aggressive, develop disrespect for parents, teachers and other elders.
These children witness such violence, they become vulnerable to emotional trauma, thereby developing sadness, depression and very often not being to handle rejection and insecurity in the interpersonal relationships they develop suicidal tendencies.
Q: What kind of role parents can play?
Dr Shubhangi Parkar: Parents should prevent domestic violence at home either in the form of abusing the children directly or having violent relationships among themselves because this will lead to a long-term adverse effect on children and can ruin their future. Parents should be provided appropriate health intervention and counselling.
Q: How to identify such children in schools?
Dr Shubhangi Parkar: The teachers should recognize behavioural changes in children, especially their withdrawn behaviour, their depression, deteriorating academic performance, temper tantrums and aggressive outbursts. With recognition of these symptoms, teachers should attempt to understand the situation of domestic violence at home. They should be able to get parents involved in the discussions and appropriate counselling and guidance should be provided. It is extremely important that these children should be brought to normal situation as early as possible.


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