Seeing Violence Can Affect Kids More Than Adults Realize
Shahinfar believes this may be because parents are unaware of their
children's exposure to violence -- for instance, if the child spends part of
his day in child care -- or because the parents may repress such
"We need to be sensitive to the idea that kids may not perceive violence
in the same way as adults do," Shahinfar tells WebMD. "We need to let
kids tell us what has been traumatic for them and to help them work through
The investigators realized that not all children were able to give accurate
answers when questioned, and some often mixed fantasy with reality. However,
close to half of the children were thought to have shown a high level of
"It's time to move beyond saying that young children are not affected by
witnessing violence. In fact, they are affected by witnessing violence and it
can impact them in very significant ways," Joy Osofsky PhD, tells WebMD.
Osofsky, a professor of public health, psychiatry, and pediatrics at Louisiana
State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, reviewed the study for
She says that both the public and physicians must recognize that witnessing
violence is a problem and that something can be done.
Osofsky, who works with a program that educates New Orleans police officers
on how to handle children confronted with violence, says that when dealing with
traumatized preschoolers, the traumatized family must be dealt with as
Shahinfar says that children who are exposed to violence tend do much worse
if parents are unavailable to them afterward.
"Parents must remember they are the first resource for their child,"
Shahinfar says. "For a child to function well in a dangerous and difficult
society, parents need to be functioning well."
- In a study of preschoolers enrolled in a Head Start program, three-fourths
reported witnessing or being a victim of at least one violent incident.
- Kids who witnessed violence tended to internalize their problems and were
depressed, anxious, and withdrawn, while those who were victims of violence
externalized their problems with aggressive and disruptive behavior.
- One researcher says that interventions should be offered at an early age
and that the age of those who are considered at risk should be lowered.