Children exposed to violence

Every year in Canada, half a million children are exposed to conjugal violence. These children often witness scenes of violence or they are near as the violent acts take place.

According to a study led by Health Canada in 2006, 60 to 80 % of children whose mothers are a victim of conjugal violence are a witness to this violence.

For too long, the negative and long-lasting effects of this exposure was neglected or minimized.  But today, the results of numerous studies leave no doubt as to the seriousness of the psychological and behavioral consequences on children who are witnesses of aggression towards their mothers. Furthermore, these studies demonstrate that the exposure of children to conjugal violence has negative effects on their social and academic development.

The report on violence towards children, stemming from a study led by the General Secretary of the United Nations, demonstrates that children living in a context of family violence can themselves be victims of violence. Furthermore, according to this same report, children exposed to conjugal violence risk having more aggressive behaviour than their peers. In fact, children exposed to conjugal violence resort more easily to violence to resolve their conflicts or develop a higher tolerance to violence.

Consequences of conjugal violence on children vary from one child to another. In fact, several factors, such as the age of the child, the proximity to the violence, the duration and the severity of the acts of aggression can influence the response of the child to the violence. However, all children exposed to violence have difficulty living in the atmosphere of fear and insecurity that exists in their families.

Generally, children exposed to conjugal violence feel fear, anxiousness and powerlessness.   They can blame themselves and feel responsible for the violence which their mother faces.

Intervention

Mother-child intervention at MFI relies on the empowerment of mothers.

 It is based on the perspective of developing the capacity of mothers and their children to act.

The principal objectives of intervention with mothers are:

  • To restore to women their parental authority.

  • To restore their capacity to fully play their role as mothers;

  • To restore their capacity to maintain successful relationships with their children

  • To improve their knowledge of the consequences of conjugal violence on the behaviour and socio-emotional development of their children.

The main objectives of intervention with children are:

  • To help children to  express their experiences so that they better understand their situation;

  • To end the sense of guilt and responsibility that children feel in regards to the violence suffered by their mother;

  • To encourage children to participate in various activities and sports so that they can live their child's life.

Intercultural intervention with mothers and their children is based on their reality, respects their comfort level and their cultural values all the while taking a stand against violence. In intervention with children their mother’s support is sought throughout.

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