The Effects of Systemic Family Violence on Children's Mental Health

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416 Scopus citations


This study examines the link between different forms of family aggression and children's symptoms of psychopathology. The goal of the study was to understand what forms children's problems might take in violent homes and whether close ties within the family (to the mother or a sibling) buffered children. Interviews with 365 mothers and 1 of their children between the ages of 6 and 12 about abuse in the home, support and closeness within the nuclear family, and mother's and children's mental health formed the basis of this study. Families were recruited from battered women's shelters and the community. We found that different forms of abuse in the home were highly interrelated and that children of battered women were at risk for child abuse. Domestic violence predicted children's general psychopathology, but we uncovered little evidence for the presence of specific sorts of disorders as a result of family dysfunction. Although mothers experiencing conjugal violence were more likely to have mental health problems, their mental health did not mediate the children's response to family conflict. Finally, there was less sibling and parental warmth in families marked by aggression, although when it was present, family social support failed to buffer children. Although the general pattern of results was consistent across respondents (mother and child), there was low agreement on symptoms of child psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1239-1261
Number of pages23
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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