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Trauma related violence

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black and white photo of a young woman with dark hair turning her head to the side.

In cases of abuse and witnessing domestic violence, trauma-related violence also complicates what’s happening at home. Children and adolescents lack emotional regulation skills and act out violently. Here is a breakdown of what we mean by “trauma”. Research indicates that all forms of abuse have similar effects on the brain and development. Moreover, it is not uncommon for abuses to co-occur within the family. For example, an adolescent may have witnessed domestic violence and have experienced sexual abuse.

The example below illustrates the complexity within these families and the need to work in a trauma-informed way.

Julie came into a session and talked about how her son Alex, who has witnessed his father hit and strangle his mother in the past. They have separated and when Alex returns from contact he swears at her and punches holes in the wall. Julie said that she can comfort him and the violence quickly ends. However, when Alex swears at her in order to play his Xbox he becomes more violent when she tries to comfort him. Julie said that she does not know how to react when he becomes violent because she does not want to make it worse.

Why Focus on Trauma?

Trauma intersects with adolescent–to–parent violence in a number of ways:

  1. First of all, mothers, the primary target of violence, may be making decisions based on triggers.
  2. Violence used at home creates a fearful environment, which traumatises others in the house.
  3. Finally, a percentage of the young people you work with will have been traumatised by interpersonal abuse/witnessing domestic violence.

Complex Trauma

Here is a breakdown of what we mean by “trauma.” Primarily we focus on Type II Trauma, which is sustained repetitive abuse over time. Type II is generally found in different forms of abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence. Impacts of trauma stem from increased cortisol in the brain, due to a fear state in the house. In these cases, the caregiver is both the source of the fear and the one children are drawn to for protection. This disorganisation leads to a number of developmental delays.

Types of abuse include:

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Neglect
  • Witnessing Domestic Violence / Family Violence

Research indicates that all forms of abuse have similar effects on the brain and development. Moreover, it is not uncommon for abuses to co-occur within the family. For example, an adolescent may have witnessed domestic violence and have experienced sexual abuse.

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Understanding and Tackling Adolescent to Parent Violence

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