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Heightened risk

When children may be more at risk

There are some situations that are indicators of heightened risk of domestic violence. They can be similar to the lethality indicators, and include:

  • when the woman is preparing to, or has just left, the relationship
  • during a woman’s pregnancy or soon after the birth of the child
  • when Child Safety has spoken to the father about, or he becomes aware of, reports of abuse or neglect
  • when the father is trying to get information about where the victim and child are
  • when the father loses parental rights
  • when the father is released from custody or incarceration
  • when he is confronted with serious criminal charges and possible prison time
  • when he is intoxicated
  • when he is withdrawing from addictive substances. This can increase anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, depression and paranoia.

Note

‘Studies have found that traditional attitudes towards gender roles, such as the belief that men should control and dominate a relationship and household, or that mothers should perform domestic duties and be always emotionally and physically available to men, are linked to perpetration of domestic and family violence in pregnancy.’

Domestic and family violence in pregnancy and early parenthood, 2015

If the mother has a new partner who is violent

A new partner coming to live with a woman and her children can pose an increased risk. When a man quickly enters into a relationship with a woman who has young children, he is also entering into a fathering role. He might have little or no experience with children.

This lack of experience or bond with a child may result in him:

  • having unrealistic expectations about the way children should behave
  • not understanding how much time and effort parenting takes
  • having unrealistic expectations about his partner's time and attention — and how she balances this between him and her children.

When the child is at risk in multiple ways

Children may be at more risk if they, their parents or family are experiencing other problems alongside being hurt by domestic violence. Domestic violence is also linked to heightened risk of other forms of maltreatment including physical and sexual abuse and neglect. How relevant these other risks are depends on how they further impact a parent’s ability to care for their children and keep them safe.

Alcohol, drug use or mental health issues do not cause violence, although they may worsen it.

Domestic violence is the result of beliefs about the man’s right to use coercive control over his partner and children.

Learn more about risks of child sexual abuse, parents with mental health issues and parents with problematic alcohol and other drug use.

Note

‘Higgins (2004) suggested that the distinction between the effects of different types of child maltreatment is unclear, as children have often experienced more than one type of maltreatment. Higgins therefore suggested that child maltreatment types, including exposure to domestic and family violence, "should not be considered in isolation due to the large degree of overlap between each form of abuse and neglect" (p. 54).’

Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence, Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2015

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