Strong relationships with other family members can help raise self-esteem and reduce anxiety in young children at homes where parental domestic violence exists, says a study.
"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," said Catherine Naughton from the University of Limerick in Ireland.
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"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," Naughton added.
The study involved 465 young people aged between 17 and 25 years. They completed an online survey which asked about their experiences of parental/caregivers' domestic violence, family bonds and psychological well-being.
Analysis showed that exposure to parental/caregivers' domestic violence was associated with reduced self-esteem, increased anxiety and weaker family bonds in young adults when compared to those who grew up in non-affected homes.
However, the presence of strong family bonds did have a buffering effect in that, despite growing up in a home affected by domestic violence, some young adults 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 violence.
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The findings were presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Windsor.