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Effects of Children's Presence on Woman Abuse

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 16 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2001 Pages: 3-17
Date Published
February 2001
15 pages

This study examines the association between the presence of children and woman abuse.


Data were collected in Charlotte, NC, from face-to-face interviews of 419 women who had called the police because of an abusive incident involving their male partner. Minor children were present in the home in 3/4 of the cases; in more than 1/2 of the cases, children had witnessed the assault according to the victims; and 2/3 of the victims reported that children had seen the police when they arrived. There was almost no association between the presence of children in the home and assault on women; the presence of children was not associated with cumulative incidence of abuse, severity of abuse, degree of injury, or the victim's decision making process in calling the police. However, police were more likely to provide information and referrals to shelters when children were present. In response to the question of why children make little difference in abusive incidents, the study identifies methodological issues which could contaminate the conclusions, and also suggests more substantive concerns: (1) the study included cases which fell within the misdemeanor range, excluding those at the felony level--thus the most serious violence, involving greater use of weapons and more serious injury, and the impact of children's presence, is not represented; (2) the sampling process partially selected out those women, both with and without children, most likely to leave abusive relationships; (3) children did make a difference, but the interviews did not sufficiently discern such differences; (4) during an abusive incident, the emotional intensity is so heavily loaded on adults that children are disregarded or overlooked; (5) parents may deny the presence of children during abusive incidents; (6) the needs of the moment outweigh the needs of children at that moment; and (7) the presence of children is but one variable in a large array and children are not sufficiently prominent to have a consistent deterrent impact. Tables, references

Date Published: February 1, 2001