“Witness” to violence? Psychological discourses of children in situations of domestic abuse

  • Jane Callaghan (Keynote speaker)
  • Sixsmith, J. (Keynote speaker)

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


    This paper examines the impact of professional (and particularly psychological) ‘talk’ about children who experience domestic abuse. Academic, popular and professional discourses around domestic abuse tend to represent children and young people as passive witnesses and victims - as individuals who watch, who suffer from and who are damaged by the violence (e.g. Rivett and Howarth, 2006; Spilsbury et al, 2007). While we acknowledge the negative impact that domestic abuse has on children’s lives, we believe that this dominant professional exlanation tells only a partial story, and one that can have a negative and unintended consequence for work with children and families. We consider the way constructs like ‘witness’, ‘trauma’ and ‘exposure’ are used in literature and professional practice, and explore the implications of such constructions for young people’s identities. In particular we explore how such accounts constrain the articulation of more agentic and resistant subjectivities in children living with domestic violence. We will talk about some of the research work we have been doing with young people, in our four nation European project Understanding Agency and Resistance Strategies, in which we explore the notion of children’s agency in situations of domestic abuse.
    Period18 Oct 2013
    Event titleDiversity: Inaugural Conference of Wales Health Student Forum
    Event typeConference
    LocationCardiff, United KingdomShow on map