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28-07-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 12/2017 Open Access

Journal of Child and Family Studies 12/2017

The Management of Disclosure in Children’s Accounts of Domestic Violence: Practices of Telling and Not Telling

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 12/2017
Jane Elizabeth Mary Callaghan, Lisa Chiara Fellin, Stavroula Mavrou, Joanne Alexander, Judith Sixsmith


Children and young people who experience domestic violence are often represented as passive witnesses, too vulnerable to tell the stories of their own lives. This article reports on findings from a 2 year European research project (Understanding Agency and Resistance Strategies, UNARS) with children and young people in Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK, who had experienced domestic violence. It explores children and young people’s understandings of their own capacity to reflect on and disclose their experiences Extracts from individual interviews with 107 children and young people (age 8–18) were analysed. Three themes are presented, that illustrate children and young people’s strategies for managing disclosure: (1) “Being silenced or choosing silence?”, explores children and young people’s practices of self-silencing; (2) “Managing disclosures: Finding ways to tell” outlines how children and young people value self-expression, and the strategies they use to disclose safely; and in (3) “Speaking with many voices” considers how children and young people’s accounts of their experiences are constituted relationally, and are often polyvocal. The article concludes that children and young people can be articulate, strategic and reflexive communicators, and that good support for families struggling with domestic violence must enable space for children and young people’s voice to be heard. This is possible only in an integrated framework able to encompass multiple layers and perspectives, rather than privileging the adult point of view. Practitioners who work with families affected by domestic violence need to recognize that children and young people are able to reflect on and speak about their experiences. This requires that attention is paid to the complexity of children and young people’s communication practices, and the relational context of those communications.

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