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Children ‘find ways to cope’ with domestic violence

Researchers at the University of Northampton found that children develop complex, creative ways to manage and cope with domestic violence. They are not just “passive observers”, but  find complex, creative ways to manage and cope with what they have experienced, and have the capacity to be strong and resilient.

The two-year study, which featured interviews with 110 children and young people from the UK, Greece, Italy, and Spain who had experienced domestic violence, found that the perception that children who experience domestic violence are passive and helpless is often inaccurate.

Dr Jane Callaghan, who was involved with the research, said that children who hide away in cupboards might be seen by professionals and academics as “hiding away”, or “cowering in corners. But if we only see this painful and difficult aspect of the child’s behaviour, and don’t try to make sense of the meaning they attach to it, we do not see how it is also resistant and resilient,” she added.

“Children are not just frightened, they are not just hiding. They are creating spaces for themselves, where they can feel just slightly safer, just a little more secure and in control.”

Using the insights gained from this research, the team developed a group-based therapeutic intervention to support children to build on their existing strengths and coping strategies.

The intervention aims to help the young people develop resilience and a positive sense of self, as they recover from living with domestic violence.