Domestic behaviour as adolescents (Lemmon, 1999; Smith & Thornberry,

Domestic violence and abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of
incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between
intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The
abuse can include but isn’t limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial
or emotional (Home Office, 2013). Violence usually occurs between
parents/families and affects children either through being directly targeted or
witnessing scenes of domestic violence between their parents (Dept. of Health, 2003). The focus of this dissertation is on
the effect of domestic violence on children and young people. It focuses on how
effects of domestic violence may shape a child’s future by him/her being a
victim of domestic violence leading him/her to youth offending. Numerous
scholarly reviews have been conducted of this literature, resulting in a
general agreement that exposure to domestic violence has an important and
measurable negative effect on children’s functioning compared to children from
non-violent families (Edleson, 1999; Fantuzzo & Lindquist, 1989; Fantuzzo
& Mohr, 1999; Margolin & Gordis, 2000; Wolak & Finkelhor, 1998). Researchers
acknowledge that exposure to domestic violence is a general risk factor for
developmental harm, characterising the process of multifocality of development
(Sameroff, 2000). It is clear that the risk of childhood experiences with
violence and witnessing intimate partner violence are risk factors for a
child’s development. For that reason, this topic was very interesting research
to understand and explore the risk factors for children witnessing domestic
violence and the different impacts it had on them. Further it has been
estimated that around half of boys who have experienced childhood events
involving sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect will engage in offending
behaviour as adolescents (Lemmon, 1999; Smith & Thornberry, 1995; Widom,
1989). This shows a link between children brought up within a domestic violence
relationship and youth offending which is another impact of domestic violence
on children that would be explored more efficiently.

In addition, for some children and young men their
experiences and traumatic events can be the path to their criminal life. Traumatic
event is defined as an incident that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or
psychological harm. The person experiencing the distressing event may feel
threatened, worried or terrified as a result (Jacquelyn Cafasso, 2016). Support
is important in this duration and therefore, if support isn’t provided, it can
impact the child long term in different ways. A study of young offenders
attending a Youth Offender Service in United Kingdom reported that most
offenders had experienced multiple traumatic events and therefore aggressive
behaviour was developed towards themselves or others (Paton, Crouch &
Camic, 2009). However, there wasn’t much study conducted in the UK regarding
the link between a childhood experience of trauma (domestic violence) and youth
offenders therefore this was an important study to research and explore. Moreover,
studies of children’s exposure to domestic violence have acknowledged the
importance of possible moderators that may impact developmental pathways but there
has been only limited success at understanding their consequence or roles. For
example, because children exposed to violence may present with similar
difficulties to those who are direct victims of abuse, it is difficult to
determine the degree to which behavioural outcomes are attributable to one or
the other (Saunders, 2003).

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In a British Crime Survey, it was reported that half of the
people who experienced domestic violence in the previous year were living with
a child who was aged between 16 years or younger. (Mirrlees Black, 1999). Also,
it is estimated that in United Kingdom, up to one million children have been
exposed to domestic violence (UNICEF, 2006). This is a very large number and
analysing the effects can be challenging. Many children have witnessed or
become a victim of domestic violence and the effects this can have on their
lives and development is an important research to take.  Previous
reviews that were conducted stated that witnessing domestic violence was
harmful to children, but they also stated that the knowledge was quite limited
due to an emphasis exploratory methodology, reliance on untested theories and
inconsistent findings. Many researches have been conducted but the results are
still in some way questionable regarding children’s social, cognitive and
physical development. The most
comprehensive statistics on domestic violence were published in the Northern
Ireland Crime Survey (a continuous, representative, personal interview survey
of the experiences and perceptions of crime of 3,856 adults living in private households
throughout Northern Ireland). Studies looking to outline the key research have acknowledged
that an important majority of the children exposed to domestic violence are
affected by the experience in both the immediate and longer term (Stanley,
2011). A strong evidence of the impact of domestic violence on psychosocial
consequences for children comes from a meta-analysis of 118 studies which
showed significantly poorer results on 21 developmental and behavioural
dimensions for most of the children who were exposed to domestic violence.
Also, there was some evidence that shows that not all children who had witnessed
domestic violence suffered from negative results (Kitzmann et al, 2003). However,
examining the impact of domestic violence on children is not straightforward
and those who conducted reviews (Edleson 1999a; Holt et al 2008) have
identified the key challenges for research in this field. They note the need to
distinguish between the effects of exposure to domestic violence and other
forms of child abuse or neglect, as well as the concern that early research was
mainly relied on data collected from women and children in protections, who
were not necessarily representative of those experiencing domestic violence in
the wider population (Children Experiencing Domestic Violence: A
Research Review, 2011).

The early
studies mainly used quantitative methodologies where the mother was asked to
complete a questionnaire regarding domestic violence that occurred in their
homes and symptoms that they had detected in their children as an effect. The
reviews and meta-analyses of these studies as a result show that living within
a domestic violence home link to children’s functioning being negatively
affected with also the psychopathology rate being up to four times higher
compared to children from non-violent homes (Kitzmann et al, 2003. The
quantitative studies made an important role in showing a clear link between
childhood exposure to domestic violence and higher rates of psychological
distress. However, these studies have been criticised as they failed to get the
experience of individual children and rather it was relied on the mother’s
answers. It would have been more effective to hear children’s own perspective
on their experience of domestic violence (Goddard & Bedi, 2010). These
early studies also failed to offer an insight into the processes through
experiencing domestic violence that leads to later difficulties. The present
study had a different aim; to build an understanding about the emotional impact
of domestic violence on young children, by hearing directly from them about
their experiences within their families. Using drawing and projective play
allowed these children to share their expectations and perceptions of family
life and relationships, just as older children and adolescents have done in
previous qualitative studies through interviews and recorded conversations
(Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 31 No. 1 © The British Psychological
Society, 2014). Studies using a more qualitative methodology have directly
involved children and young people as research participants and used their own
words from interviews to describe and begin to understand their experience.