Traditionally, domestic violence is thought to take place only in the marriage or family settings, but the prevalence is spreading—to teens. High school students today report relationship dynamics that are controlling or abusive. Unless we stop it, domestic violence threatens to seriously shape the relationships of the next generation.
What are the dynamics characterized by domestic violence?
Healthy relationships include mutual respect and shared responsibility, but the core issues of domestic violence are power and control. A predictable negative pattern develops in many abusive relationships.
Phase One is the tension building phase in which the attacker reacts negatively to frustration. The victim senses the escalating tension and may try to de-escalate it, usually without much success. The attacker tends to blame the victim as the cause of the frustration.
Phase Two takes place when the actual abuse happens. There may be physical abuse, destruction of property, or threats to hurt other loved ones, such as children. The attacker may say, “I’m going to teach you a lesson,” and the damage may be quite horrifying. Then, when the abuse is over, the pain and denial continues.
Phase Three is the resolution stage in which the attacker may show kindness and use charm to convince the victim that they are truly sorry. They make false promises that they will never do it again. Another possible dynamic is blaming the victims. The attacker may say, “If you didn’t act this way, I wouldn’t have hurt you. I love you and I’m trying to protect our relationship.” The victim is convinced that there is real love and a good relationship.
What about the impact on the next generation?
Physical and emotional stability are fundamental needs for children. This provides an essential asset for them to learn how to regulate their emotions, and behaviors. Children of conflicted marriages or troubled relationships are at risk for adjustment problems, including academic, emotional, behavioral, and even physical health.
Young children may develop a higher alertness to parental conflict and may exhibit behaviors such as whining as an attempt to reduce the immediate marital conflict. In my practice, it’s common to hear reports of children experiencing sleeping difficulties, becoming overly clingy to one parent (perhaps as an effort for protecting that parent), minimizing or denying their own stress or struggles and having other emotional or behavioral problems (such as inattention in school). Over time, a higher risk for psychopathology and adjustment difficulties may be even more apparent. In the long term, these children may develop various forms of relationship difficulties and emotional issues as adults.
Survivors of domestic violence may need a lot of support and professional assistance in breaking free from an unhealthy relationship. There are local crisis lines, and even shelters for families with children. They have to work through their own maladaptive belief system before they can stop the cycle of violent relationships, which can be repeated by their children. Consider the impact on the next generation—stop the abuse and do not pass it on.
Domestic violence is more than a relationship problem; it is a generational problem.
Dr. Gloria So-Lloyd is a licensed health service psychologist as well as a licensed clinical social worker working with children, adolescents, adults and families.
Teens and Domestic Violence: Statistics
- 24% of teens report knowing someone who has been the victim of dating violence.
- 13% of teenage girls say they have been physically hurt by their partner in a relationship, and more than 26% report verbal abuse.
- Less than 35% of teens say they discuss dating violence with parents.
Domestic Violence Hotline
Rape Crisis Hotline
Oklahoma Statewide Safeline