How domestic violence hurts families

By Jen Dunn

As a psychiatric nurse, I have been opportune and privileged to work with individuals and families of different age and diverse culture with various forms of mental and psychological disorder. Many of my patients have history of domestic violence that has been said to have contributed to their mental illness and behavioral disturbances. I have witnessed my patients exhibit the signs of being abused, hence, I developed the interest to explore on this topic domestic violence in childbearing families. Before, I proceed, I will like to expose my readers to a video clip that tells the story of domestic violent families of child bearing. 

Domestic violence has become a global issue in our society today, spreading across every culture and nation.   According to World Health Organization (WHO), domestic violence is defined as any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm. Such behavior includes acts of physical aggression, psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, and various controlling behaviors, for example isolating from family and friends, monitoring movements and deprivation of basic necessities. Domestic violence has huge effect on family of child bearing. It has been noted that domestic violence is the major cause of mortality and morbidity amongst women of child bearing age. It has multiple health effects on the children and contributes to the cause of mental illness and behavioral problem in children who often witness domestic violence. Battered victims have greater rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than the members of the general population. They also have greater rates of alcohol and substance abuse problems. These effects that impair physical wellbeing and mental status seen among people in an intimate relationship and child bearing families has been recognized by individuals and organizations, hence the need for the fight against domestic violence.

Domestic violence does more than affecting the physical and mental status. It also affects the various needs of individual families and their productivity. This was supported by humanist psychologist, Abraham Maslow. He stated that our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs. He stressed that as humans, we ought to be motivated in order to achieve certain needs. Domestic violence in childbearing families tend to lose this sense of motivation (for the children and for the partners), which was stressed by Maslow. It is also noted that domestic violence in child bearing families can lead to distortion whereby separation of partners can occur. This instability leaves the children with the inability to achieve some basic needs as well as some advanced needs mentioned by Maslow such as physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs; as such, leading to inability to achieve self-esteem. The video explains how the child’s safety need was jeopardized as well as the social need which is the sense of being loved.

It is the priority of every nurse to help break the chain of domestic violence as such domestic violence is not taken for granted whenever it is reported or suspected on patients. As a nurse, planning a nursing care for this category of family in order to promote health and prevent suffering, I will adopt the Family Development and Family life Cycle Theory. This will enable me assess the family, identify the changes the family is going through, identify if the family has adjusted well to the stages of life cycle and the possible cause of the violence. Basing my nursing care plan on the family seen in the video clip, from my assessment, I discovered that stress was the cause of the man’s violence. He was stressed out at work and was unable to manage it. That led to his lashing out on his wife about why he should be the one picking up their daughter. He also did not adjust well to the new role of being a father as he failed to understand that picking up the daughter is a responsibility for being a father. On the other hand, I found out that the wife was unable to interact effectively with the husband as she couldn’t understand the husband’s feelings to realize that it was not the best time to communicate to him. 

The Couple and Family Interactions Theory buttressed that domestic violence among couple is rooted in the faulty interactions of couple and family system and that an individual violent behavior cannot be addressed without understanding the context, characteristics and dynamics of the familial relationship. The goal for this family will be to protect the victims and help the battered to learn a new behavior. The immediate plan will be to remove the victims, which is the wife and the daughter from the batter, treat the physical injury of the daughter, and provide emotional, psychological and physical support to the wife. Further intervention, will be to recommend anger management class for the man, counseling for both parents focusing on learning good communication skills and providing the wife with resources that she can keep in touch with if such incidence reoccurs. The child will be educated on appropriate behavior, while condemning any form of violence and emphasizing that violence is unacceptable so that the child will not learn such behavior as it is often observed that violent behavior is found amongst individuals who experienced violence. Referral to therapy to help the child suppress the experience through crisis support group, individual counseling and educational group will be recommended as well.

Conclusively, it is without doubt that families will have some form of disagreement. However, physical abuse is not an option for a family to utilize when there is disagreement. The need to adopt other ways such as dialogue to resolve disagreement should be made known to families. Following the increase rate of domestic violence even amongst stars such as Ray Rice, it is therefore relevant for the campaign of domestic violence to go beyond small organization to a zero tolerance policy by various countries. Nurses do have a lot of roles to play in assisting families of domestic violence but preventing domestic violence can be achieved if the government is committed with the goal of establishing a consistent, coordinated, and integrated approach for each community. 

AWAM Malaysia (2013). Domestic Violence Hurts Families - AWAM's Community Message Video. Retrieved from
World Health Organization in Hegarty, K (2011). Domestic violence: the hidden epidemic associated with mental illness.  The British Journal of Psychiatry.  198:  169-170 doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.083758.
Kaakinen J. R., Coehlo D. P., Duff V. G. & Hanson S. M. H. (2010). Family Health Care Nursing: Theory, Practice and Research, 4th Edition.
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