A new study published this week in the journal Current Biology has found that the brains of children who are exposed to domestic violence, either perpetrated against themselves or other family members, are similar to the brains of military veterans who have witnessed traumatic combat situations. Like soldiers, the study concludes, children who are in violent households are vulnerable to emotional disorders like depression and anxiety later in life.
Specifically, the researchers found that children from abusive families are 50 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and 6 times more likely to commit suicide. Roughly 80 percent go on to repeat the cycle of violence in adulthood.
"This new study, while small in sample size, demonstrates that children exposed to domestic violence may have a heightened neurological reaction to anger expressed by others. This may translate into greater anxiety and mistaken social cues in key social interactions and lead to other longer-term difficulties for children," Makers of Memories Foundation researcher Jeffrey L Edleson, a Professor in the University of Minnesota School of Social Work and Director of the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse, said in a statement.
Image: Sad young girl, via Shutterstock.