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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

Kids carrying weapons in North Yorkshire

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12:02am 31st May 2012

Children who witness family violence more likely to carry a weapon, seriously harm someone or be excluded from school.

Children who witness family violence are four times more likely to carry a weapon or seriously harm someone than children from non-violent homes, according to new figures released today (Thursday 31st May 2012) by the NSPCC.

These children are also three times more likely than their peers to be involved in a mixture (three or more types) of anti-social behaviour and twice as likely to be excluded from school.

Simply witnessing violence can cause trauma and distress to children that is so severe it can have a massive impact on their well-being and ultimately their behaviour.

The research shows that children who have witnessed violence between their parents or other family members are:

  • Four times as likely to carry a weapon, such as a knife, or hurt someone badly than their peers
  • Three times as likely to take drugs, steal, spray graffiti or bully others than their peers
  • Twice as likely to get drunk or get into fights than their peers
  • Five times more likely to run away from home than their peers
  • Twice as likely to be excluded from school

Over half (56%) of children from violent homes show three or more of these kinds of disruptive behaviours whilst at secondary school.

According to the latest yearly Department of Education figures, 50 children in North Yorkshire and York were permanently excluded from school and 2240* were suspended one or more times. Some of them will be experiencing domestic violence at home. Whilst this is not a determining factor, and does not in any way provide an excuse for poor behaviour, NSPCC research shows strong new evidence of a correlation.

The damaging impact is even seen in primary school children. Five to 10 year-olds from violent or abusive homes are two to four times more likely to hit, slap or push other children; pick on others or; break, damage or destroy someone else's belongings.

Gordon Ratcliffe, NSPCC head of region Yorkshire and the Humber, said:

"This new research is particularly timely with the Government's new focus on 'troubled families'. It shows a clear link between witnessing family violence at a young age and serious behavioural problems in later life. This shows that even if a child hasn't been physically harmed themselves, they can still be hugely impacted by what has happened. This is something we have always known but these figures give us strong new evidence of a correlation.

"The damaging impact of family violence on children's behaviour and education is immense. These children are acting out their emotional disturbance by causing harm to themselves or others. We know from pioneering research that a child's brain is damaged by witnessing or experiencing physical or emotional abuse at a young age. And whilst this is not a determining factor, and does not in any way provide an excuse for poor behaviour, it does go a long way to explaining it.

"So we welcome the Government's focus on early intervention and also their attempts to tackle 'troubled families'. But by the time a child is in their early teens the damage can already be done and behaviour can spiral out of control. We must intervene early in families where violence occurs and, crucially, we must provide opportunities for therapy for children who have been harmed by this abuse. The cost of doing this is dwarfed by the costs, both in human and cash terms, of inaction."

The NSPCC is:

  • Calling for adult and children's services to work closely together to ensure the needs of the whole family, including the children, are addressed when violence is reported.
  • Asking schools to look out for bad behaviour being a potential indicator of abuse at home.
  • Introducing programmes of work across the country to help children who have suffered family violence and working with families to reform their behaviour.
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