Children’s experiences of domestic violence and abuse: siblings’ accounts of relational coping

Jane Callaghan, Jo Alexander, Lisa Fellin, Judith Sixsmith

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


This article explores how young people see their relationships, particularly their sibling relationships, in families affected by domestic violence, and how relationality emerges in their accounts as a resource to build an agentic sense of self. The ‘voice’ of children is largely absent from domestic violence literature, which typically portrays them as passive, damaged and relationally incompetent. Children’s own understandings of their relational worlds are often overlooked, and consequently existing models of children’s social interactions give inadequate accounts of their meaning-making-in-context. Drawn from a larger study of children’s experiences of domestic violence and abuse, this paper uses two case studies of sibling relationships to explore young people’s use of relational resources, for coping with violence in the home. The paper explores how relationality and coping intertwine in young people’s accounts, and disrupts the taken for granted assumption that children’s ‘premature caring’ or ‘parentification’ is (only) pathological in children’s responses to domestic violence. This has implications for understanding young people’s experiences in the present, and supporting their capacity for relationship building in the future.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Domestic violence
  • children
  • domestic abuse
  • families
  • siblings


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