Children want to be seen and heard

Children who live with domestic violence receive little support from adults apart from their mothers. The main exception is workers in refuges. Children told researchers involved in a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, that it would be useful to talk to another adult they could trust, but they said most professionals either ignored or disbelieved them. The children wanted to be listened to, and to be involved in decisions about their lives.

The study, conducted by the Universities of Warwick, Bristol, North London and Durham, set out to discover how children understand violence against women and how those who live with it cope with their experiences. They talked to 1,300 children aged between eight and 16, and 45 who had lived with violence at home.

The difference between boys' and girls' responses increased as the children got older; boys aged 13 and over were more likely to excuse the actions of the perpetrator. The majority of primary children (52 per cent) wanted lessons about domestic iolence in school, to find out what to do if it happened and to understand why it happens. Three-quarters of all the children believed a child living with domestic violence could do something practical, such as telling someone; the researchers suggest such beliefs could be built on by work in schools.

Meanwhile, a set of guidelines to help nursery schools promote an ethos of non-violence has been published by the Forum on Children and Violence, which was established after the murder of toddler James Bulger. The "checkpoints"it recommends include ensuring that home-school agreements include a commitment to non-violence, encouraging co-operative games, helping children learn non-violent ways to resolve arguments and giving children specific advice about personal safety. A schools version was published earlier.

Towards A Non-Violent Society: Checkpoints For Early Years is by Sue Finch and funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation. It is free from the Forum on Children and Violence, 020 7843 6309,

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