When someone is a witness to bullying or abusive behavior, the incidents are strictly between the people involved, the aggressor and the victim. However, while this is true to a certain extent, the bigger picture of abuse is both multidimensional and chain-like in nature. The aggressor and the victim may not even be aware that violent and traumatic tendencies are transferred from another source and could be pass on continuously. Identifying these trends and the processes involved through a more comprehensive perspective may allow anyone to end this chain before it gets progressively worse.
Abuse can begin at any point, but one of the most commonly cited sources of this snowballing effect starts with domestic abuse. Statistically between 2003 to 2012, 21 percent of all violent victimization can be traced to domestic violence. These violent interactions set terrible examples of how men and women behave around each other if the abuse takes place in front of children. This can occur implicitly through experiencing it second-hand, or in some instances, abuse from one spouse may carry over directly to the children as well.
In addition to this, divorce is not a strongly correlated factor in regards to its effect on children. Some research details that in the onset of psychological problems in children, more cases result from parents who have very messy separations or even stay together, but constantly fight in comparison to couples who have divorced. This shows that the act of two parents splitting is not a direct source of childhood trauma, it’s the circumstances that result because of the split. In many cases of abuse, divorces and other separations happen to be tied to dramatic and traumatic events.
From a developmental point of view, the age at which this abuse takes place in a child’s life can result in varied outcomes. Children learn through imitation, especially early on. For example, learning language commonly starts by repeating words or phrases to a child until it sticks. Unfortunately, due to a child’s immature ability to understand the complex and adult concepts that result in domestic abuse, bearing witness to abusive behavior may severely warp his or her perception of justice, reward and punishment.
Once abusive behavior is embedded within a toddler’s mind, the ramifications on his or her psyche, emotions and behavior may manifest in a number of ways. One of the most apparent manners is that the child may act out in school or other social settings. This may entail becoming a bully to project the abuse he or she receives at home. Research also shows that many of these bullies do indeed have conflicted or abusive household environments.
Due to the incidence of adolescent bullying, the next step of abuse continues to travel down the chain. In this case, aggression and trauma are inflicted upon another child or teenager. It is a sad fact that about five million students in grades one through nine are involved in some kind of bullying altercation, either as a victim or an aggressor during the school year. One of the most resonating ramifications of this statistic is the growing prevalence of suicide and self-harm. The latest research shows that for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, suicide is the third highest cause of death. Specifically, one survey showed 38 percent of frequently bullied victims displayed suicidal ideation or attempted suicide during the past year. Another tragic and preventable consequence is an act of mass violence perpetrated by the victim in a glorified act of revenge. School shootings, such as at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech are only a few examples of a skyrocketing new threat at schools all over the United States where the gunmen claimed to be victims of bullying.
One of the most imperative statements to keep in mind regarding this cyclical linking of abuse is the idea that it can be prevented. At any point, the correct level of psychological, emotional and behavioral management can quell a potential situation into a peaceful compromise. This can be accomplished by establishing safe and open communication between individuals, allowing issues to be talked out and dissected for their validity. In addition, it is very important to intervene as a third party at the slightest sign of abusive behavior. Sometimes circumstances between those directly involved can be too personal and intense to be handled alone. A helping hand can make all the difference.
At Sovereign Health of California, our team of professionals and treatment providers are committed to ending the cycle of abuse and fostering the positive implications that will result. If you have experienced abuse firsthand or have witnessed it with someone you know, do not waste a single moment. Contact our 24/7 helpline online or call (866) 819-0427 for immediate aid.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer