The Influence of Domestic Violence on Adolescents

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TheInfluence of Domestic Violence on Adolescents



Thispaper examines the influences of domestic violence on adolescents’development. By reviewing 3 secondary sources, alongside primary dataexploration and analysis, the paper determined that domestic violenceconnotes the regular mistreatment by one individual in an intimatebond with an aim to take full authority and dictate the partner, andinvolves outcomes such as fear, intimidation, and shame. Adolescentsfrom families experiencing domestic violence were verified to exhibitsuch emotional and behavioral traits as low self-esteem, extroversionor introversion, isolation, anxiety, engagement in criminal acts anddrug misuse, and inclined to suicide attempts among other negativebehaviors. In any case, based on the social learning theory,adolescents are still undergoing brain development and any exposureto negative environmental stimuli results in adverse emotional andbehavioral characteristics.

TheInfluence of Domestic Violence on Adolescents

Ifan individual goesthroughdistress, particularly that of domestic violence, either directly orindirectly at a tender age, i.e. from childhood to teenage, such aperson does not adequately traverse the suitable developmental stage.The exposure to domestic violence deters the emotional progress ofchildren (in the United States, children are those aged below 18years adolescents are, therefore, children), causing delays inmental growth (Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012).Consequently, the adolescents fail to cultivate and sustain adesirable degree of trust in their parents or guardians as theyperceive that the resultant environment is not secure. That impactshow the members of the family associate with each other, and willpose serious inconvenience to the adolescents because it willrestrain them from building productive relations with people outsidetheir families, for instance, in the school environment. With anincreased frequency and intensity of domestic violence, as well aslengthy exposure, adolescents suffer the consequences of poorrelationships and inferior cognitive development (Espelage,Low &amp De La Rue, 2012).This research paper examines how domestic violence dissuadesadolescent growth, including the impact the problem has on theircognitive capabilities as learners. Secondary resources are reviewedto provide background information on domestic violence and adolescentdevelopment, while primary data is utilized to underpin how domesticviolence influences cognitive development, with social learningtheory revisited to appreciate the situation.

Backgroundor Secondary Information

Domesticviolence connotes the regular mistreatment by one individual in anintimate bond with an aim to take full authority and dictate thepartner. Violence may extend from the partner relations to the entiresubjects related to the abuser and victim, for example, children maysuffer under the conditions of a father maltreating their mother(Espelageet al., 2012).Put another way, domestic violence denotes the act of subjecting asurviving family member (or partner) to trauma by another relatedperson (e.g. father) through such behaviors as physical torture (e.g.beatings and canings), emotional torture (e.g. isolation andhumiliation), and sexual abuse. Domestic violence is caused by anumber of factors, for instance, alcoholism and substance use,feminism notions that men are superior to women, stress frustrations, and irresponsibility of one or both partners(Lawson,2014).Domesticviolence is an insidious challenge in the United States, and persistsacross all sexes, ages, and races or ethnic groups. Espelageet al. (2012)noted that estimates indicate that at least 10 million nationals arevictims of domestic violence annually, with about 20 personsreporting physical maltreatment each minute. Regarding sexes, out ofthree women, one suffers some form of physical mistreatments whileamong four men, one is subjected to some kind of physical assaults byan intimate companion in a lifetime. Women suffer most, with about 78percent of the intimately involved women facing intimidation actsagainst only 24 percent of men. Estimates also show that about 3.3 to10 million children are subjected to domestic violence of varieddegree and frequency on an annual basis (Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012).

Infamilies characterized by domestic abuse of dictatorship andoppression, the results are often intimidation, dominance, fear,guilt, and shame. These are very detrimental to the otherwisedeveloping adolescents, as they acquire behaviors and beliefs thatprevent them from interacting with their peers and others outside thefamily in addition to inferior cognitive growth (Espelageet al., 2012).Basedon social learning theory, Lawson(2014) pointed out that anadolescent who encounters pains related to domestic violence isassociated with delayed brain development as at their age, they arestill undergoing cognitive maturation under the influence of theobservations they draw from the surrounding environments. It has beenproved that adolescents nurtured in families full of love, support,and caring have inferior brains compared to those who grow up inenvironments characterized by domestic violence, subjecting them tocontinual fear and inconsistency which, in turn, culminates in theincapability to develop and competitively thrive. An upbringing underdomestic violence settings makes adolescents feel they are in anendless danger, which is termed as the fight or flight reaction. Intandem with that, such adolescents always exhibit a permanentcondition of hyper vigilance (Lawson,2014).

Adolescent’sexperience with domestic maltreatment and the results of the exposurehave been an area of concern recently. Even if adolescents do notobserve domestic violence unswervingly, they may still be adverselyimpacted.Perkins &amp Graham-Bermann (2012) asserted that thestereotypical expression of an adolescent who has viewed householddomestic violence shows that the incident subjects them to emotionaltrauma. Specifically, Espelageet al., 2012) noted that adolescentswitness domestic violence through such means as hearing themaltreatment, being notified that they are the cause of the problem,being utilized as a physical weapon, being compelled to engage in orobserve the maltreatment, being handled as a hostage, participatingin guarding a parent, or trying to intervene or bring the violence toa stop. Adolescents also have to tolerate the sites of a bruisedparent, a guardian being apprehended and personal injuries, as wellas having to deal with neglect by the disagreeing parents. The abovemultifaceted dimensions of domestic violence expose adolescents totrauma, anxiety, depression, high aggression levels, anti-socialcharacters, decreased social competence, and matters of temperament(Lawson,2014).Additionally, adolescents start involving in substance use, and maytake part in suicide attempts besides internalizing and using the artof aggression against their peers. Therefore, domestic violence hasfar-reaching consequences in the social development of youths and canbe better appreciated using a theoretical framework which, in thiscase, is the social learning theory.

TheoreticalPerspective in Domestic Violence: Social Learning Theory

Manytheories have been conceived to aid in the conceptualization of howdomestic violence impact adolescents and children at large. However,this section makes use of the social learning theory to underscorethe outcomes of domestic violence environments on the development ofadolescents. The theory offers a firm foundation of comprehending howadolescents, by witnessing domestic violence acts, acquire behaviorsthat undermine their social and cognitive lives (Lawson,2014).To clearly understand the consequences of domestic violence amongadolescent populations, primary data was explored and the findingsanalyzed as highlighted in the ensuing subsections:


Datawas obtained qualitatively through a descriptive survey that covered5 experienced in-service college psychology and counseling tutors.The assumption was that in their past years of experience, thesetutors have dealt with domestic violence cases. Therefore, they wouldprovide up-do-date data regarding the problem and how it manifests inadolescents. Hence, questionnaires were issued to the selectedsubjects, and were filled within 3 days. To reinforce the integrityof the data, a one-day focus group discussion (30 minutes) of 5college learners was held to facilitate the sharing of ideas amongthe trainees regarding the effects of domestic violence in the growth(cognition) of adolescents (Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012).The major findings of the survey were as detailed below:


First,the tutors recounted a record domestic violence issues they hadexperienced during several instances through their counselingprofession as psychologists. The aspects that constitute domesticviolence were obtained from their insights and clustered into anumber of themes namely“physicalassault, sexual assault, neglect, emotional frustrations, violentthreats, economic denial, space deprivation, and intimidation”(Perkins &amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 91).

Additionally,the tutors brought up some responses that they evidenced in the pastas indicators of impacts of domestic violence among learnersadolescent and early post-teenage learners. These were identifiedinto a number of themes namely “confusion, retarded concentrationspan, self-blame, anxiety over-recurrence, flashbacks, loweredself-efficacy, intrusive thoughts, and exaggerated startle responses”(Perkins &amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 91). Mosttutors pointed out that regarding cognition, the influence ofdomestic violence commences during pregnancy and progresses afterbirth through to adolescent and adulthood stages. From the focusgroup discussion,thetrainees noted such issues as “lack of concentration followingflashback, shame and stigmatization, and fright”(Perkins &amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 92)ascentral outcomes of domestic violence.


Oneof the valuable findings related to the tutors’ agreement that thecognitive outcomes of domestic violence commences during pregnancyand progresses after birth through to adolescent and adulthoodstages, and is characterized by such parameters as physical assault,sexual assault, neglect, emotional frustrations, violent threats,economic denial, space deprivation, and intimidation. According toEspelageet al. (2012),many prenatal visitations to the U.S. healthcare facilities are as aresult of domestic violence disruptions such as distrusting adults,despair feelings, excessive social engagement, low-level personalhygiene, and regressive acts.

Apartfrom the impacts of domestic violence on newborns, if themaltreatment continues in the family, the consequences persist tocause considerable damages during one’s adolescent stages. One ofthe tutors noted that “Ifit is the wife experiencing abuse from her husband, he will probablyextend blame and maltreatment to the children”(Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 92). Whatfollows is a group of teenagers living in fear for their mother, aswell as displaying unremitting worries about their security. In anycase,Perkins &amp Graham-Bermann (2012)argued that any violence-prone household characterized by intimateassaults stands higher chances of reporting adolescent abuse at thesame intensity. At this point, the adolescent(s) in question takeself-blame as a result of the disturbed family setting.

Thetutors also mentioned that adolescents who react to domestic violencefrequently depicted extreme introversion or extroversion traits.Under the instances of extreme introversion, adolescents alsoexhibited such qualities as self-isolation, deficient problem-solvingskills, avoidance behavior, irritability, and reduced levels ofself-esteem. These are very detrimental to the cognitive growth ofthe teenagers, with most of the individuals always conveyingsubstandard academic capabilities ascribed to their low grade scores.According to Lawson(2014),adolescents are still undergoing active brain or cognitivedevelopment processes based on the environmental stimuli. When theyare exposed to negative environmental factors of distress attributedto domestic violence, the result is equally retarded mental growth orcognition.

Onthe other hand, most respondents (tutors) indicated that adolescentswho display extreme extroversion characteristics due to domesticviolence are often involved in multiple peer relations, showabsentmindedness, participate in many aggressive or revenge actions,and are more likely to uphold suicide behaviors. Moreover, it isargued that adolescents with the traits of extroversion andintroversion derived from domestic maltreatment are filled withphobias, and may suffer from posttraumatic disorder in addition torestlessness (Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012).Under such conditions, adolescents’ classroom concentration span,just as pointed out by the tutors, is often not in place, resultingin an overall low intellectual achievement.

Fromthe focus group discussion, several outcomes of domestic violence tothe cognitive development of adolescents were obtained, all of whichwere in agreement with the views of the tutors. First, in thediscussion, one participant echoed that“Iam not able to concentrate any time I have a flashback about havingto witness domestic violence every end month”(Perkins &amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 92). Theimplication here is that no adolescent likes to witness a parentsuffer the trauma of abuse, such that in any case they are forced tobe part of the problem, the thoughts of the occurrences adverselyaffect their classroom concentration levels, which may, in turn,cause poor academic performance. The statement quoted above points tothe fact that domestic violence is widespread in some households, andoccurs routinely (every month). Because the assault in the firstpoint raised by a focus group participant takes place at the end ofevery month, it can be attributed to financial disagreements betweenthe intimate partners. As argued by Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann (2012),financial stress or struggles is a primary reason for physical andemotional torturers (domestic violence) within families in whichone’s income is either inadequate or arguments arise on how tospend the money.

Anothercollege trainee in the focus group discussion reiterated that “Theway in which they scold and run after each other in the streetsleaves me with a sense of shame and stigma, as well as depriving mefrom concentrating in my classwork”(Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 92). Thisconfirms that adolescents associated with domestic violence alwayslook down upon themselves based on the shame they attribute to theact, going further to believe that their colleagues will likelystigmatize them. Consequently, they feel withdrawn from activeparticipation in class (and exclude themselves from the rest) in thefear of becoming a laughing stalk the result is low self-esteem andpoor cognition among adolescents (Espelageet al., 2012).

Anotherleaner exclaimed that “Thedomestic violence is so disgusting that when parents initiate itnobody can stop them”(Perkins&amp Graham-Bermann, 2012, p. 93).Thatpoints to the fact that adolescents, although they hate domesticviolence and witness it by trying to stop their parents fromendorsing assault acts, their power to control the situation islimited. Hence, they endure the site of the revolting parents and endup with such negative behaviors as aggression because that is thestimulus the contemporary environment offers to be learned andinternalized. Therefore, some adolescents from domestic violencefamilies have been noted to express aggression and engage in fightswith their peers. In addition, they are not capable of buildingstrong social relations because they have nothing to offer (no love,care or support to friends) in such relationships other than hostileattitudes (Lawson,2014).

Indeed,domestic violence has adverse outcomes on the cognitive function ofadolescents. According to Espelageet al. (2012),domestic violence instills negative emotional and behavioralreactions among children, including “horror, shock, anxiety, guilt,hostility, irritability, avoidance, interpersonal stress, depression,drug use, social withdrawal, and crime or delinquent acts.” Withthe above aspects defining the qualities of adolescents, more casesof school dropouts have been reported alongside their hopelessnessperceptions within the school and home environments.

Concerningthe inquiry on witnessing domestic violence, both the tutors andcollege trainees concurred that it significantly hinders learning.The learners pointed out that the close an individual is to theatmosphere of domestic violence, the more pronounced is the influenceon the observer, in this case the adolescents. It pains more if thewitness shares a close emotional bond with the abuse victim. Thefocus group participants went ahead to echo that reading the storiesregarding domestic violence presented by adolescents in suchplatforms as the media depict situations in which the adolescentssuffer neglect attributed to the murder of a partner, or humiliationsby the abuser. Witnessing domestic maltreatment as it takes stagebetween the strong partner (oppressor or abuser) and the weakercasualty remains a pervasive incident to all adolescents. On thatregard,Lawson (2014)concluded that domestic violence influences the cognitivetransformation of adolescents by presenting them with a predicamentthey cannot solve. Therefore, the government, alongside key educationstakeholders, need to closely examine the situation to map the causesand impacts of domestic violence.


Fromthe review of secondary sources and the analysis of primary data,several deductions are possible. First, it is clear that domesticviolence hinders adolescents’ cognitive function, with theirproblem-solving skills, as well as other cognitive process aresuppressed, leading to low performance and negative attitudes abouteducation manifested in increased school dropout incidences. Second,change behaviors are common among adolescents subjected to domesticviolence, and include: aggression, low self-esteem, extroversion orintroversion, isolation, anxiety, engagement in criminal acts anddrug misuse, and inclined to suicide attempts among other negativebehaviors. Also, apart from the common distorted attention span,adolescents from domestic violence families experience shame and fearassociated with stigmatization by their peers. As summed up by thetheory of social learning, adolescents are yet to complete theprocess of development they depend on the environmental stimuli toachieve full maturity. If the stimulus is negative as under theconditions set in by domestic violence, then the learning adolescentacquires negative behaviors and emotional aspects discussed above.Because of that, it is recommended that the government, educationstakeholders, and parents collaborate to create a peaceful homesetting characterized of positive stimuli such as peace, love, care,and support. That way, adolescents will acquire positive emotionaland behavioral qualities to aid in their competitive success andexistence.


Espelage,D. L., Low, S., &amp De La Rue, L. (2012). Relations between peervictimization subtypes, family violence, and psychological outcomesduring early adolescence.&nbspPsychologyof Violence,&nbsp2(4),313-324.

Lawson,J. (2014). Sociological theories of intimate partnerviolence.&nbspJournalof Human Behavior in the Social Environment,&nbsp22(5),572-590.

Perkins,S., &amp Graham-Bermann, S. (2012). Violence exposure and thedevelopment of school-related functioning: Mental health,neurocognition, and learning.&nbspAggressionand violent behavior,&nbsp17(1),89-98.