|dc.description.abstract||This study explores the experiences of five children witnessing family violence and the
resultant psychological distress experienced by these children. The study was conducted
within a phenomenological framework and used in-depth interviews with the children
and caregivers. The data gleaned from the interviews with the children was substantiated
by projective drawing tasks.
Analysis of the interviews and drawings found that children who witnessed domestic
violence experienced significant psychological distress. The significant findings of the
study were as follows:
Child witnesses exhibited behavioural, affective and cognitive responses to
witnessing the traumatic events.
Themes of guilt, shame and role confusion emerged from the interview data as
results of having witnessed the abusive episodes.
Fear was a result of having witnessed the abusive episodes, and was pervasive in
all relationships - with significant others, peers, and the researcher.
Social support from peers and family members acted as a buffer by providing an
escape to dealing with witnessing the trauma.
There was a significant difference in the coping styles in relation to
developmental status- the older children exhibited a multitude of coping styles as
compared to the younger children.
Gender pattern differences emerged - boys were more likely to exhibit
externalizing behaviour in response to witnessing the abusive episodes, whilst the
girls exhibited more internalizing behaviour patterns.
The results of this study are discussed within the ecological-transactional framework.
Further research in the area of domestic violence is recommended.||en