Exposure to Domestic Violence when Young May Lead to Same

There are many ideas about the precise functioning of the human mind when it comes to violence and the committing of violent acts. An especially prevalent idea is that rather than being an intrinsic trait, the propensity for violence is a learned behavior that has complex interactions with the mind as a person works their way through life. While this theory is largely accepted, especially among humanist-leading psychologists and other mental health professionals with a focus on the inherent good of human beings, the complexities of such interactions are often unexplored, leading common sense and best guesses to dictate the causes of violent behavior in many cases. A piece of this puzzle of interactions was recently solved, however, by means of a study published in the journal Personal Relationships.

The study examined occurrences of violent thoughts, feelings, and behaviors among those exposed to domestic violence at an early age, as opposed to those without reports of such activity. The researchers found that people who had experienced violent episodes at a young age were more likely to experience such issues in the future, especially during their own marriages later on in life. The study further noted the ways in which men and women tended to behave in situations of domestic violence, suggesting that while men used violence as a message for women to back off, women in violent households and situations often exhibited the clingy behaviors which were frequently cited as catalyzing violent episodes.

Supporting the effort to create more effective intervention programs and resources for young people in violent environments, the study is a positive step forward for everyone who has suffered within the cold hands of domestic violence.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sarah Jetkins

    Sarah Jetkins

    October 25th, 2009 at 2:24 AM

    I have to agree that children exposed to domestic violence experience problems … maybe immediately or later in life, but their growing-up is riddled with memories of domestic violence, which is no good…

  • John Lee LMHC

    John Lee LMHC

    October 25th, 2009 at 2:26 AM

    History doesn’t necessarily make pathology. Many therapists have suggested you have x symptom therefore you must have been abused. The mind will go to work and could make a false memory. However there is evidence that many (not all( men identify with the predatory and of the female will at times identify with the predator.

    Another variable is people learn how to communicate from their families. Domestic violence is often learned behaviors while at the same time I have seen the opposite! I just had a case where the wife drug her husband in for therapy stating he has a terrible childhood and wanted me to convince him he needs therapy to resolve psychiatric symptoms that aren’t showing up yet but she wanted to be ready when they did!

    In the above case the husband has numerous friends and is very successful at work. He is a loving father and a devoting husband and the problem is his wife was reading too many books. Very similar to reading the side effects of a prescription not all side effects happen.

    The husband stated that while it is true he did have a horrible childhood he stated that he always accepted that part of him and did not want to repeat the cycle.

    The husband actually initiated the counseling session as he was becoming frustrated with his wife’s expectations of him becoming abusive.

    I myself grew up in an emotionally abusive environment and was sexually assaulted twice by the age 15. By 17 I simply became tired of it and went to a military school.

    I did have problems but I did not grow up to become a predator and I did not grow up to become an abusive husband I took the victims stance and buried most of my feelings with drugs and school until age 35. At age 35 I became sober and have been ever since.

    While there is evidenced supporting the evidence of the relationship between growing up in an abusive home and domestic violence, that isn’t always the case

    John Lee LMHC

  • Mick P

    Mick P

    October 26th, 2009 at 4:00 AM

    Any negative thing, when seen by a child, exposes the child to a lot of tension and confusion. It disturbs his mental condition in my opinion, and that exactly is the reason why parents are asked not to fight or use abusive language when their little ones are around.

  • Laura


    October 26th, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    “clingy behaviors which were frequently cited as catalyzing violent episodes”? Not “verbal abuse which catalyzes violence”, not “shouting and confrontational behavior which catalyzes abuse”, but “clingy behaviors.”

    Nice victim-blaming there. And don’t think the “were frequently cited as” hedging tag gets you out of it.

  • Rose


    October 26th, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    Although it may sound convincing, it is not always true that kids who are exposed to domestic violence will do the same having grown up. A right exercise done at the right time may help…something like even a counselling may help to prevent such a negative thing’s repeat later in life.

  • Meg


    October 26th, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    What you grow up with is what you know and in many cases what you will tend to seek out as an adult. Did you grow up in a home where you witnessed abuse? Then how do you know what else there is out there? I mean you may know that there are better situations out there but you may either have no way to find those or you may not even think that you are worthy of having a happier or healthier life because you have been beaten down for the majority of yours. It is sad to think that there are kids witnessing horrible home lives right now and will grow up to repeat the same things just because they were never shown or told that they deserve anything better than that.

  • bret


    October 27th, 2009 at 4:58 AM

    Just as in everything else, there are two possibilities of such a thing happening or not. Although it cannot be generalized that kids who are exposed to domestic violence WILL indulge in the same later in life, the study says that the probability of such a thing happening goes up if a child is exposed to domestic violence.

  • Harris B

    Harris B

    October 28th, 2009 at 2:19 AM

    Just like certain movies are inappropriate for kids, exposure to domestic violence is also very inappropriate for children. Even if it does not bring out similar behavior from them later in life, it will surely have an effect on their mental well-being, disturbing them mentally.

  • Jerome


    November 3rd, 2009 at 3:02 AM

    I dont think exposure to domestic violence makes history repeat itself necessarily. I had a terrible childhood with parents who were junkies and with a very violent dad. I am a father and a husband today and a banker as well.

  • Naomi


    November 3rd, 2009 at 3:05 AM

    My brother is undergoing therapy for subjecting his girlfriend to a lot of domestic violence. I dont blame him coz he’s turned that way from watching dad hit mum for years. I guess history repeats itself.

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