“Estimates from the U.S. Department of Justice indicate between 21% and 38% of households with partner violence had children under the age of 12 years living in the home and, among urban households, 60% of children witnessed the violence,” said Gerald Gonzales of the Department of Counseling Psychology & Human Services at the University of Oregon, and lead author of a recent study examining resiliency in men who experienced abuse in their childhoods. “While the effects can vary based on frequency and severity, evidence suggests EPV places children at risk for poor physical health, increased aggression, conduct problems, antisocial behavior, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, future perpetration of violence.” However, not all children who are exposed to inter-parental violence (EPV) experience psychological or social difficulties in adulthood. “The purpose of this study was to examine the contextual factors that contributed to the resilient development of adult men who experienced exposure to inter-parental violence (EPV) as children.”
For their study, Gonzales and his colleagues interviewed 12 grown men who had all been exposed to EPV during their childhood. The participants were all socially well-adjusted, successful and nonviolent. The results revealed several factors that led to resiliency in the men, including having a safe place to go to and a relationship with a non-threatening, non-violent adult. “Coaches, neighbors, and teachers must be considered as people who could create safe havens for children and serve as role models of life skills and nonviolence,” said Gonzales. “Second, the use of sports and the sports culture may greatly improve outcomes for male children who experience EPV. Study participants identiﬁed sports as providing a safe and positive escape from EPV, a context for healthy socialization, sense of self-efﬁcacy, and access to peer and adult role models.”
Additionally, the findings showed that spirituality facilitated resiliency in most of the men. “Of particular note, adult male participants talked about how spirituality and faith facilitated understanding, forgiveness, and healing.” Gonzales added, “In sum, clinical practice with male child survivors of EPV would be improved with broader, more diverse conceptualizations of social support resources, incorporation of extracurricular activities that provide children with access to safe spaces, distractions, and role models, and greater focus on children’s socio-emotional, spiritual, and life skill development.”
Gonzales, G., Chronister, K. M., Linville, D., & Knoble, N. B. (2011, December 5). Experiencing Parental Violence: A Qualitative Examination of Adult Men’s Resilience. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026372
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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