Domestic violence is a universal social concern, and its implication on children’s mental health is a global health predicament. Although the aftereffect of domestic violence on the mental health of women is well researched, mental health disorders of children in terms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder (CD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), separation anxiety disorder (AD) and mood disorder (MD) on account of domestic violence is rarely investigated. Hence, the purpose of the study is to investigate the impact of exposure to domestic violence on children’s mental health.
To examine the correlation between domestic violence and mental health among children, in a survey of public primary schools in Ekiti State, Nigeria, the authors employed 664 pupils with simple random techniques. The Multidimensional Domestic Violence Scale assessed the participants’ exposure to domestic violence. The Child & Youth Mental Health General Screening Questionnaire was used to examine respondents’ mental health.
The results revealed a high incidence of domestic violence among children. It also showed a substantial correlation between domestic violence and the mental health of primary school pupils. Children living with domestic violence experience significantly increased rates of ADHD, ODD, AD, GAD and MD as forms of mental health disorders.
Given the unpleasantness of this social issue affecting the well-being of children globally, it is imperative to engage in intervention and prevention packages that will assist the victims, perpetrators, parents, teachers, schools and other stakeholders. Introducing counselling services into the primary school curriculum will assist victims and those at risk develop self-confidence that will enable them to report their violators. Although counselors do not diagnose, early detection of victims would assist in early intervention where counselors can use different techniques and approaches to help such victims to resolve all forms of cognitive distortions that can lead to mental health disorders. Counselling services can help in providing referral opportunities to victims or “at risk children,” rehabilitation and follow-up services for victims of domestic violence.
Government organizations should also reintroduce health-care services where clinical psychologists will be available in primary schools to provide psychological services to meet the needs of the victims.
Conclusively, the study presents evidence that children who witness domestic violence face a significant risk of developing mental health disorders. The findings highlight the potential harm that domestic violence can inflict on children’s mental well-being. Mental health conditions such as ADHD, CD, ODD, GAD, AD and MD are commonly observed in these children. It recommends establishing early intervention programs for children witnessing domestic violence in schools and communities and programs to detect and address mental health issues promptly.
The authors’ sincere appreciation goes to Ekiti State SUBEB, which allowed them to carry out the study in their schools, to all participants and parents that permitted their child/ward to participate in the research. Also, to all research assistants who helped in the data collection.
Funding: This research was funded by TETFund under Institutional Based Research. The funding agency was not involved in the manuscript groundwork, study design, collection of data and analysis.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declared they have no conflict of interest.
Authors Contribution: Victoria Olubola Adeyele, Proposal, Study design, Data collection, Writing – First draft, Final draft. Veronica Ibitola Makinde, Proposal, Study design, Data collection, Data analysis, Final draft.
Adeyele, V.O. and Makinde, V.I. (2023), "Mental health disorder as a risk factor for domestic violence experienced by school children", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 414-429. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHRJ-11-2022-0072
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