A new study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University has shown that domestic violence between parents can have a different effect depending on the sex of the child. The effects of domestic violence can be devastating for any child when they experience abuse between parents, but these effects are not always the same. Female children tend to internalize the effects of this exposure while male children externalize this experience and are more likely to act out as a result. In both sexes the exposure to domestic violence between parents will usually result in social development that is poor. There were two different points which were examined for the study, one when children start preschool and one when children begin kindergarten. The behavior of the child and their exposure to violence was assessed at each point.
The study on domestic violence between parents and the effects of domestic violence exposure on children were studied in the hope of developing early intervention programs. The lead researcher of the study, Megan R. Holmes, Ph.D., M.S.W, explained “Most children fell within normal ranges for social development and aggression. The exposure occurring when the child was of school age predicted poor social skills for girls but not for boys.” The study showed an increase in aggression among boys exposed to domestic violence between parents but not among girls. Holmes explained that “This aggression tends to isolate and prevent healthy interactions with other children.” Early detection and prevention may help improve the outcome for children exposed to the effects of domestic violence.