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

    40 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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