The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, conducted in 2008, found that more than 60 percent of children in the United States had been exposed to violence within the last year, with domestic violence of particular concern.
In an article written for Huffington Post, Drs. Barry Zuckerman and Megan Bair-Merritt discuss the long-reaching ripple effects of childhood exposure to violence and trauma, and what needs to change within the health system and our communities. Citing a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, they point out that the number of children in this country who have been exposed to domestic violence is twice that of those children with asthma.
Children living in a violent home are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with mental health problems, experiencing developmental delays and having trouble in school. They are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and to be in an abusive relationship. These children, Zuckerman and Bair-Merritt argue, are often silent victims, “even as their health and functioning (including their school work) suffers.”
Among their suggestions, they advocate for better access to evidence-based mental health services for children. They write:
“More child mental health providers must be trained to provide easier access for families. Access to proper mental health care will be facilitated if the traditional medical home successfully integrates with behavioral health partners. All insurance plans must provide adequate coverage for mental and behavioral health services. Treatment is most effective in children before the full blown diagnosis — why wait?”