For youth who grow up in homes with parental violence, having strong relationships with other family members can increase their self-esteem and help lower anxiety, according to a new study at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
“Research has previously shown that strong social bonds can act as a beneficial psychological resource, especially in times of need. In this study, we investigated whether family bonds could help the self-esteem and anxiety of young people who had been exposed to domestic violence between their parents or caregivers whilst growing up,” said study leader and doctoral student Catherine Naughton.
For the study, about 465 young people between the ages of 17 and 25 years (70 percent female) completed an online survey which asked about their experiences of parental/caregivers’ domestic violence, family bonds, and psychological well-being.
The findings reveal that exposure to parental/caregivers’ domestic violence is linked to lower levels of self-esteem, increased anxiety, and weaker family bonds in young adults when compared to young people who grow up in non-affected homes.
The good news, however, is that having strong family bonds with other family members can act as a type of buffer.
For example, despite growing up in a home affected by domestic violence, some of the respondents who described strong family bonds also showed increased self-esteem and reduced anxiety. This buffering effect of family bonds was seen when the domestic violence between their parents/caregivers was reported as either physical or psychological abuse.
“Although strong family bonds can help raise self-esteem and reduce anxiety for some young people who grow up in homes affected by domestic violence, sadly, the majority are likely to report weak family bonds. Therefore they are unable to benefit from the psychological benefits strong family bonds provide,” said Naughton.
“The first consideration when dealing with victims of domestic violence (including children) should be their physical and psychological safety,” she added.
“That said, given the secrecy that surrounds domestic violence, it is important that parents, the extended family, and service providers understand the protective effects that strong family bonds can have. This way they can encourage young people affected to maintain the inherent sense of belonging within the extended family which, ultimately, can provide positive psychological support.”
The findings will be presented at the British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Women Section’s annual conference in Windsor, U.K.
Source: University of Limerick