This release presents information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS).
The survey collected detailed information from men and women about their experiences of violence since the age of 18, as well as experiences of current and previous partner violence, stalking, physical and sexual abuse and harassment, abuse before the age of 15, and general feelings of safety.Approximately 50% of women ‘who had children in their care when they experienced violence by a current partner reported that the children had seen or heard the violence’. Further, almost 70% of women who had children in their care when they ‘experienced violence by a previous partner reported that the children had seen or heard the violence’. Approximately 60% of men ‘who had children in their care when they experienced violence by a previous partner reported that the children had seen or heard the violence’. See Tables 17-18 for further detail.
This summary outlines the major issues identified in ANROWS research relevant to children, the factors preventing effective service delivery, and the policy and practice changes recommended by the researchers.
Some key points include (pp 1-2):
This literature review cites statistics from a US study collected from household census data from over 20,000 households (G. Fox and M. Benson ‘Violent men, bad dads? Fathering profiles of men involved in intimate partner violence.’ In R. Day & M. Lamb (Eds.), Conceptualizing and measuring father involvement. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2004)):
This comprehensive state of knowledge paper is the first of a three part mixed-methods research project addressing parenting and abuse tactics. This paper presents the current state of knowledge on parenting in the context of DFV by examining the following four research questions:
This review identifies that DFV may impact negatively on women and children and the parenting capacity of both perpetrators and victims is affected. Altered mother--child relationships may occur due to deliberate undermining of the mother’s parenting, and children are often used by perpetrators as tools to abuse mothers and exert control and coercion (p 2).
The report points out that violence does not end when couples separate. It specifically identifies the legal system as a tool of abuse used by perpetrators, and that poor understanding by legal professionals can heighten the risks for women and children (p 2).
Although there is limited information on the parenting style of abusive fathers, abusive men as fathers have been characterised by researchers and victims as authoritarian, under-involved, self-centred and manipulative. These men also engage in high levels of substance abuse. Children exposed to partner violence in the home by their father/stepfather are at heightened risk of child maltreatment including child sexual abuse (p 2).
The report suggests that supportive care includes improved understanding and collaboration between child protection, family law, and domestic violence advocacy services (p 2).
The report also identified issues with forced contact through court:
PAThways and Research In Collaborative Inter-Agency practice (the PATRICIA Project) is an action research project focused on the collaborative relationship between specialist community-based domestic and family violence support services for women and their children, and statutory child protection organisations.The study found that even when domestic and family violence was the focus of an initial child protection report, it was poorly addressed—for example, no link being made between an abusive father’s patterns of behaviour and the barriers they caused to the healthy, daily functioning of the family (p 12). The study also found that collaborations between child protection and domestic and family violence services showed a lack of engagement with the family law system. Evidence of the impact of abuse on children was rarely adequately recorded in child protection files, and family law issues were rarely addressed in ways that would enable the protection of children from ongoing contact with an abusive father (p 14).
This report focused on:
Overall, it found that any exposure to IPC or DFV is associated with poorer wellbeing outcomes for mothers and children in both intact and separated families (compared with families where such exposure does not occur). Sustained exposure to IPC and DFV is particularly damaging (p 13). The impacts of DFV on mothering and mother–child relationships are multiple and often continue post-separation (p 10).
The findings also show that for a significant proportion of families, exposure to IPC and DFV is sustained after separation, and it escalates for some (p 12).The results point to the importance of early reduction in family conflict, and the need for approaches post-separation that prioritise the reduction of exposure to IPC and DFV. This includes the need for approaches to help women and children repair relationships that have been damaged as a result of DFV (p 14).
In interviews with 50 women across Australia with experience of family violence, the study found that controlling and coercive behaviours were the most common tactic of abuse used by abusive fathers, which included setting rigid routines and/or having unreasonable expectations about children’s behaviour. Out of the 50 women interviewed, 45 described direct abuse toward their children, including psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as witnessing abuse or being a direct victim of incidents that targeted the mother at the same time (p 3).
The report identified negative fathering behaviours occurring before and after separation, in addition to behaviour that was directly abusive to children. This includes (p 5):
The study found that courts give limited capacity to women to challenge the ongoing parenting role of the abusive parent due to priority placed on “meaningful relationships” and women’s concerns that they may be seen as an “alienating” parent (p 5).The findings from the longitudinal quantitative analysis in the study showed that children who live with such violence are more likely to have a range of health, development and social problems (p 4).
This article discusses the relationship between domestic violence responses, child protection responses and family law responses, where a child witnesses or experiences domestic violence. It identifies that (p467):
‘Where domestic violence responses, child protection responses and family law responses collide, a mother may simultaneously be constructed as being responsible for protecting her children from the influence of an ex-partner’s violence, in need of support and protection herself, and responsible for facilitating the other parent’s contact with children.’‘Similarly, children may be simultaneously constructed as primary ‘victims’ in need of protection from exposure to parental violence, as secondary victims who can be protected from exposure to a father’s violence by supporting/protecting the mother, or as ‘witnesses’ of parental conflict who will benefit most from equal contact with both parents. Domestic violence itself is understood differently throughout these contested discourses…’
This paper presents a helpful overview of relevant literature. It identifies that children who live in homes characterised by violence between parents, or directed at one parent by another, have been called the 'silent', 'forgotten', 'unintended', 'invisible' and/or 'secondary' victims of domestic violence.
It summarises the research that demonstrates that witnessing domestic and family violence can involve a broad range of incidents, including the child:
It summarises research on the impact of domestic and family violence on children in the aftermath of violence including:
This review identifies that:
This article discusses adolescent-to-parent abuse (APA), varied forms of abusive behaviour perpetrated by a child toward a parent (p 490). Mothers are more likely to be victims of APA than fathers (p 490), and correlations have been identified between APA and abusive behaviours within a young person’s dating relationships (p 491). As a distinct form of abuse, it is not necessarily appropriate to approach APA within a traditional domestic violence framework (p 496). Responding to APA raises issues separate from youth crime and domestic and family violence more broadly:
This article investigates children’s experiences with domestic and family violence (DFV), through interviews with 21 children who have been victims of DFV (p 7). The results indicate that children are aware of patterns of coercive control, and the impacts of such abuse (pp 10-3). Such experiences result in an increased sense of constraint, which children may develop specific strategies to cope with (pp 14-6).Significantly, the article raises children’s direct agency in coping with, and responding to, DFV, highlighting the inaccuracy of treating children as merely passive witnesses (pp 17-20). Accordingly, the authors recommend that professional responses to DFV better recognise children’s agency, moving beyond perceptions of them as passive witnesses, and tailor strategies for children as direct victims (pp 22, 23-4).