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Pediatrics. 1994 Oct;94(4 Pt 2):594-9.

Witnessing domestic violence during childhood and adolescence: implication for pediatric practice.

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  • 1Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


The traditional role of the pediatrician, which consisted primarily of making diagnoses and prescribing treatments for specific disease entities in children, has expanded dramatically to include psychosocial aspects of health care as well as problems that are primarily psychological, emotional, or social in nature and that extend in various ways to the family and to the child's environment. One of these problems has been identified as the manner in which witnessing domestic violence, a significant and relatively commonplace event for many children today, affects child development and behavior. This paper reviews our existing knowledge of such events and explores how exposure to conflict and violence plays a major role in how children learn to relate to others, how they develop their self-concept and self-control, and how they interact with dating and marital partners in the future. We conclude with a discussion of the role of the pediatrician in interviewing children and other family members and in identifying appropriate avenues for prevention and treatment. Major recommendations derived from this paper include: decreasing the attitudinal barriers to exploring this issue; increasing sensitivity to clinical features and behavioral symptoms of children who witness domestic violence; and increasing knowledge of available resources for treatment and prevention.

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