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

  • Jane Callaghan (Keynote speaker)
  • Sixsmith, J. (Keynote speaker)
  • J. Bilotta (Keynote speaker)
  • Sarah Armstrong-Hallam (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, through Northampton Women’s Aid, exploring the notion of children’s agency in situations of domestic abuse.
    Period27 Nov 2013
    Event titleNorthamptonshire Against Domestic Abuse (NADA) Domestic Abuse Conference
    Event typeConference
    LocationKettering, United KingdomShow on map