Children exposed to family violence are at risk for developing long-lasting problems. Family violence is a pervasive problem, however, studies comparing continuation with cessation of family violence are limited. Understanding the cessation or continuation of family violence on child development is a prerequisite to prevent enduring problems and develop interventions. This study compares posttraumatic stress and delinquent behavior of children aged between eight and eighteen years for whom severe violence continues to children for whom violence diminishes or ceases. Children (N = 162, 43% boys, mean age 12 years) and their parents reported to child protection services (CPS) with severe violence were included. Levels of family violence, posttraumatic stress and delinquent behavior were re-assessed after 18 months. Most families (74%) still experienced severe family violence at the second assessment despite involvement of CPS. Structural equation modelling was applied. In the group where violence diminished or stopped, delinquent behavior decreased. A decrease of posttraumatic stress only occurred when violence diminished but surprisingly no decrease was observed when violence stopped completely. The findings demonstrate that overall family violence is persistent. Differing paths can be discerned for delinquent behavior and posttraumatic stress, indicating different developmental and recovery pathways after cessation of family violence. Nonetheless, it is fair to state that specialized and long-term care is crucial.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The current study was made possible with the financial support from the Dutch ministry, Dutch municipalities and Augeo Foundation.
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