Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Psychology and Social Sciences


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Lynne Cohen


Based on the available theoretical and empirical research literature, this review examines the complexity of children's exposure to domestic violence. In addition to identifying numerous theories which have been used in the literature to help understand how exposure to domestic violence may affect children's adjustment and functioning, this review provides an in depth overview of the research investigating the short and long-term impact of domestic violence exposure on children and young people. Despite the consistent finding across studies that children's witnessing of domestic violence is associated with a host of psychological, social and behavioural problems, there is also evidence in the literature to suggest that the majority of children who witness domestic violence do not demonstrate any adverse consequences. Contextual factors which may explain the variability in children's responses to domestic violence have been identified and summarised, together with protective factors which may contribute to children's resiliency following domestic violence exposure. Definitional and methodological limitations of the literature are discussed, together with suggestions for future research in this area. Much of the existing research on children and domestic violence has focused on the negative consequences of witnessing such violence. However, in recent years several researchers have endeavoured to identify factors that promote resilience among children who are exposed to domestic violence. Due to the paucity of qualitative research studies examining children's experiences of domestic violence exposure as well as the factors that mediate the impact of witnessing such violence, this study aimed to address these gaps in the research. Specifically, this study aimed to explore women's experiences of witnessing domestic violence during their childhood and adolescent years as well as the factors that influenced their ability to cope with witnessing such violence. Six women who had witnessed domestic violence during childhood or adolescence were interviewed using a qualitative research design with a phenomenological and resilience framework. Six dominant themes, each with a number of subthemes emerged from the data. These were: the context of the violence, the characteristics of the violence, the impact of domestic violence, coping and survival strategies and outcomes. The implications of this study for research in the area of domestic violence are discussed.