Children, Domestic Violence, and Guns

Published: Feb 22, 2018 | Author: April Zeoli, PhD, MPH

The negative consequences of domestic violence are not only felt by a batterer’s intimate partner; they are also felt by the children who see, hear, or are otherwise affected by the abuse of a parent or are themselves directly abused. It is estimated that child abuse co-occurs with domestic violence in 30 to 60 percent of households with children in which domestic violence occurs. In extreme cases, children are witnesses to the violent death of a parent or are killed.

This paper presents research evidence on the intersection of firearm use in domestic violence and the presence of children. It discusses threats against children, murders of children, and the psychological impacts to surviving children. While any domestic violence witnessed by a child can be damaging, and any threats or violence against children decreases their safety and is detrimental to their lives, the involvement of guns in these acts may make them particularly harmful due to a gun’s lethality and ability to engender fear. It is therefore worth specifically examining the intersection of children, domestic violence, and guns.

Research on firearm use in domestic violence and its impact on children is sparse. At times, this review examines research on threats and intimate partner homicide (IPH) with additional child victims more generally due to a dearth of specific firearms research. However, this is what we know: we know that gun threats are made against children; we know that children are witnesses to gun use in domestic violence, particularly IPH; we know that children are sometimes killed during IPH, often with guns; and we know that children are psychologically harmed when one of their parents kills the other.

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