Theoretical Assumptions of Programs for Children

Social learning theory tells us that children learn about violence and aggressive tactics as a result of being exposed to the abuse of their mothers. In the process children develop attitudes about violence, and learn lessons about power in relationships. Children are highly likely to believe that at least some of the blame for the parents' conflicts resides within themselves. In some families, the children are directly blamed for the fighting in the family. As children get older, they are much more capable of seeing alternative explanations as causes for the events happening around them. However, children raised in violent families may either attempt to reject the aggressive behavior of the adults in their family, or they may attempt to wholly incorporate this aggressive behavior. Both approaches are problematic. For most children, these conflictual role models hamper the child's efforts to move forward with a clear sense of competence.

Children's reaction to the violence is mediated by their level of cognitive development. Preschool-age children are considered to be egocentric. That is, they understand the world in terms of themselves. Thus, younger children are more likely to blame themselves for their parents' problems and/or to believe many of the threats made by the batterer. They are often frightened yet unable to discuss what is happening. Most children aged 6 to 12 understand that one person may have different feelings than another in response to different situations or events. In terms of understanding domestic violence, the school-age child is able to imagine various causes for the violence. In particular, the child can see the causes of domestic violence as beyond those immediately connected with her- or himself. The child also is able to play out or imagine

Domestic Violence Intervention other possibilities or outcomes to domestic conflict.

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