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Children's sense of threat from parental fighting determines trauma symptoms
Date:3/29/2010

If children feel threatened by even very low levels of violence between their parents, they may be at increased risk for developing trauma symptoms, new research suggests.

A study by psychologists at Southern Methodist University in Dallas found that children who witness violence between their mother and her intimate partner report fewer trauma symptoms if they don't perceive the violence as threatening.

The research highlights the importance of assessing how threatened a child feels when his or her parents are violent toward one another, and how that sense of threat may be linked to symptoms of trauma.

"Our results indicated a relation between children's perception of threat and their trauma symptoms in a community sample reporting relatively low levels of violence," said Deborah Corbitt-Shindler, a doctoral candidate in the psychology department at SMU. "The results of the study suggest that even very low levels of violence, if interpreted as threatening by children, can influence the development of trauma symptoms in children."

The researchers presented their findings February 24 at the "National Summit on Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan: Forging a Shared Agenda" in Dallas. The scientific conference was sponsored by the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan.

Family violence experts estimate that more than half of children exposed to intimate partner violence experience trauma symptoms, such as bad dreams, nightmares and trying to forget about the fights.

The SMU study of 532 children and their mothers looked at the link between intimate partner violence and trauma symptoms in children. The families were recruited from communities in the urban Dallas area. The National Institute of Mental Health funded the research. For more information see www.smuresearch.com.

In the study, mothers were asked to describe any violent arguments they'd had with
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Contact: Kim Cobb
cobbk@mail.smu.edu
214-768-7654
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert

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