New study to investigate mental health of children exposed to domestic violence

Domestic violence

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have been awarded national funding to investigate the long-term mental health of children exposed to domestic and family violence.

The project, led by Dr Carol Orr, from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, will use police and health records to investigate differences in the mental health service use and diagnoses of children exposed to domestic and family violence.

Funded through ANROWS – Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Core Grant Research Program – the study was one of eight projects chosen to address research gaps in relation to young people exposed to violence against women.

The research will provide long-term insights that will inform local and national policy as well as best practice in mental health services provision and support effective domestic family violence responses to affected children.

“Children exposed to domestic and family violence are often referred to as the forgotten victims, yet 10 to 25 per cent of Australian children are exposed to violence against their mother, making this a significant issue for these children.”

Dr Carol Orr

Dr Orr said exposure to domestic and family violence was recognised as one of the most common and harmful adverse childhood events, yet the long-term impacts on a child’s mental health was largely unknown and issues could emerge long after initial exposure.

“Children exposed to domestic and family violence are often referred to as the forgotten victims, yet 10 to 25 per cent of Australian children are exposed to violence against their mother, making this a significant issue for these children,” Dr Orr said.

“It could increase the risk of mental health disorders, such as hyperactivity, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Our research will shine a light on the issues faced by these children.”

Dr Orr said the team would assess high-quality, de-identified linked long-term data from police and health records.

“Our unique approach will provide a better understanding of how children exposed to domestic and family violence are currently receiving mental health treatment and where the gaps exist,” Dr Orr said.

“It will enable more targeted interventions to benefit the children, their families and their communities.”

The research project will start next month.

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