Psychological adjustment of children exposed to family violence

Valerie Hicks Mosca, Pace University


The major purpose of this study was to investigate the personality characteristics of children exposed to family violence. Clinical data indicates that these children may be prone to a variety of symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and aggression, which may not be readily apparent to either parent or clinician. This research examined the effects of family violence by comparing children from violent families and children from non-violent families on a variety of measures to assess their behavioral, social, and psychological adjustment. The results indicated that children from violent families demonstrated significantly more behavior problems and had less social interaction than children from non-violent families as reported by their mothers. According to mother-reports and self-reports there was no significant difference on measures of anxiety, depression, and aggression. However, the Robert's Apperception Test for Children, a projective test, indicated significant differences between children from violent families and the comparison group on anxiety and aggression. While mean scores for depression were higher on all measures (mother-reports, self-reports, projective test), they were not significant. Finally, children from violent families were found to be significantly less able to utilize adaptive coping skills than children from non-violent families. Children from violent families were able to identify problem situations, but relied on atypical responses and maladaptive responses or left problems unresolved significantly more often than children from the comparison group. Thus, significant differences between children exposed to family violence and the comparison group were found on psychosocial variables of behavior problems and social interactions, feelings of anxiety and aggression, and use of adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies. What seems most important to consider when assessing these children is the discrepancy between their outward and their inner concerns. Early evaluation and treatment of these children are seen as important interventions to minimize the effects of living in a violent family and interrupt the intergenerational cycle of violence. Since early case finding is of particular importance school and community agency personnel should be trained regarding possible signs and symptoms of family violence.

Subject Area

Personality|Social psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Mosca, Valerie Hicks, "Psychological adjustment of children exposed to family violence" (1991). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9201887.



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