If more parents understood how violence in the home could impact a child for life, perhaps a greater number would seek a way out of their abusive relationships.

That's why advocates for survivors of domestic violence are praising a newly published study in the Journal of Family Violence, which shows that children who witness repeated abuse among their parents are more likely to develop issues such as depression or a substance use disorder, whether or not they're abused themselves.

"Our children suffer in those homes," said Julye Myner, executive director of Center for Hope and Safety in Rochelle Park, which assists victims of domestic abuse and their families.

"We really need to recognize the damage that is happening to them and the repercussions," Myner said.

"What we also see ... is that children who experience violence in the home form attachments with their parents that are typically not healthy," Myner said. "And as they grow up and engage in their own relationships, they're distorted, they emulate what they experienced as children."

A 2009 study from the U.S. Department of Justice found that children's exposure to violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological and emotional harm. Also, these children are at a higher risk of becoming part of the cycle of violence.

The new study notes that it is possible for children who witness parental domestic violence to "thrive in adulthood and achieve complete mental health." But the research finds that overall, these children are nearly twice as likely to develop depression, an anxiety disorder and/or a substance use issue as an adult.

"Oftentimes, parents think that their children don't know of the abuse happening in the home, and that's often a fallacy," Myner said.

Myner said for many victims, the decision of whether or not to leave an abusive situation is anchored in their kids' well-being. If they truly understood the impact that the situation is potentially already having on their kids, the decision to leave may be an easier one to make, she said.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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