Bully Perpetration in Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a public health concern for its impact on the direct victims of the violence and on the children who have been exposed to it. Children who witness IPV tend to repeat a cycle of violence by exhibiting externalizing behaviors such as various forms of bullying of their peers. Some studies indicate children exposed to IPV may exhibit these behaviors at clinically significant levels. Other variables that may increase the likelihood that a child perpetrates bullying after witnessing IPV include the severity of IPV exposure, gender, socioeconomic status, and nature of family relationships. Research supports trauma focused- cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) as an effective intervention in mitigating externalizing symptoms in children exposed to trauma such as IPV. Implications for social workers urges the profession to continue its anti-bullying advocacy efforts and to advocate for alternative or additional consequences for children who bully their peers such as a trauma informed mental health evaluation. As most bullying takes place in the school environment, school based social workers are encouraged to implement TF-CBT programs that have been modified for the school environment. While there is an abundance of studies indicating a link between IPV exposure and perpetration of dating violence in teenage years or IPV in adulthood, the research supporting IPV exposure and bullying in children is still growing. This project suggests that IPV exposure has immediate consequences in the children who witness it and that these consequences can be observed at a much earlier age.