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Children Witness Domestic Violence that is Often Unreported

Update Date: Apr 07, 2014 01:54 PM EDT

According a new nationwide study, researchers found that young children are witnessing domestic violence that rarely gets reported. The study estimated that roughly only one in every four cases ends up in a police report while the others most likely continue to haunt children.

"Family violence definitely cuts across all segments of society and has a serious impact on children," lead researcher Sherry Hamby, PhD, a psychology research professor at Sewanee, The University of the South said. "Parents are such big figures in a child's life. If a parent is endangered, that can threaten a child's well-being. They get worried that if their parent is in danger, then who is going to protect them?"

In this study, the researchers analyzed 517 children who have reported witnessing domestic violence, which encompassed beating, hitting or kicking in a parent or caregiver. 75 percent of the children stated that they saw the actual act of violence, 21 percent said they heard it and three percent said they noticed the injuries after the event. About one in every 75 children was physically hurt. Roughly 75 percent of the attackers were males.

The researchers found that domestic violence cases were not limited to economic lines. 28 percent of the cases occurred in households with a yearly income of under $20,000, 30 percent of the cases happened in households with an annual income from $20,000 to $50,000, 18 percent from households with incomes ranging from $50,000 to $75,000 and 24 percent from households making over $75,000. The ethnic breakdowns of the cases were 53 percent white, 20 percent African-American, 16 percent Latino and 11 percent other.

Despite witnessing domestic violence and reporting it to the police, not many arrests were made. The study found that 13 percent of adult felt that the police should have arrested the perpetrator and 13 percent felt that the police should have followed-up on the investigation.

"One of the most shocking findings is that less than 2 percent of the cases resulted in jail time for the perpetrator," said Hamby reported in the press release.

The study was published in the American Psychological Association's (APA) journal, Psychology of Violence.

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