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Tweddle Clinicians Welcome Children's Rights Report Findings

Posted by Kerrie Gottliebsen | 15/12/15

Tweddle clinicians working with distressed infants and their families impacted by family violence welcomed the findings of The Children’s Rights Report 2015 launched on Monday 7th December by anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty, National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell, and Professor Kerry Arabena from the University of Melbourne

Commissioner Mitchell said the report includes new data which reveals the prevalence and impact of violence inflicted on children and young people by family members including nearly a quarter of children estimated to have witnessed violence against their mother.

Importantly, Commissioner Mitchell outlined a clear need for early intervention, from a child's conception, especially in the early years of a child's life and in particular, routine screening and better information on family and domestic violence during pregnancy.

“Research is now clear that exposure to family violence can have significant negative impacts on the developmental trajectory of children, including in utero, and has been directly linked to mood and personality disorders, impaired cognitive functioning and learning, antisocial and aggressive behaviours, heightened anxiety and pervasive fear”

Commissioner Mitchell said the experiences of children must be understood in their own right, and not just as part of an adult situation.

Earlier in the year Tweddle Board member and Clinical Psychologist Dr Nicole Milburn spoke to The Age Social Affairs Reporter Miki Perkins about the impacts of family violence on children and unborn babies and the way it shapes their lives.

Dr Milburn spoke about how studies have shown genetic changes in babies in the womb in family violence settings and that some children are growing up in environments where the adults they rely on for safety are either frightened or frightening. 

“You have babies who are really hyper-alert to stress; they get upset, are harder to soothe, and often get diagnosed as colicky or irritable. And it's very hard on mothers. They have already got a lot of emotional resources taken up with managing a stressful situation." Said Dr Milburn

“The impact of family violence on children varies, according to their age and stage of development. Young children rely on their parents to keep them safe and meet their needs, but in an atmosphere of family violence their carers are either frightening, or frightened”

“And young children in highly dysfunctional families learn a cruel lesson: they can only episodically rely on adults. This is "diabolical" because it leads to children finding it hard to relate to other people or settle into the world …”

A lot of behavioural problems in school can be traced to family violence, but genetics are not destiny, and good support can help children recover, Milburn stressed.

Because of the rapid pace of development in infancy, young children can recover quickly, which is why it is important to act as early as possible. Six sessions of therapy with a baby might equate to a whole year of work with a 10-year-old” said Dr Milburn.

Early intervention for infants and young children provided by Early Parenting support services like Tweddle are critical in preventing behavioural and other problems later in life.   

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