Children's experiences of domestic violence and abuse: siblings' accounts of relational coping

Jane E M Callaghan, Joanne H. Alexander, Judith Sixsmith, Lisa C Fellin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores how children see their relationships, particularly their sibling relationships, in families affected by domestic violence (DV) and how relationality emerges in their accounts as a resource to build an agentic sense of self. The 'voice' of children is largely absent from the DV literature, which typically portrays them as passive, damaged and relationally incompetent. Children's own understandings of their relational worlds are often overlooked, and consequently, existing models of children's social interactions give inadequate accounts of their meaning-making-in-context. Drawn from a larger study of children's experiences of DV and abuse, this article uses two case studies of sibling relationships to explore young people's use of relational resources, for coping with violence in the home. The article explores how relationality and coping intertwine in young people's accounts and disrupts the taken-for-granted assumption that children's 'premature caring' or 'parentification' is (only) pathological in children's responses to DV. This has implications for understanding young people's experiences in the present and supporting their capacity for relationship building in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-668
Number of pages20
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date30 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Domestic violence
  • domestic abuse
  • children
  • siblings
  • families

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