Impact of family violence on children

Dr Tricia Eadie’s clinical and research work over several decades has confirmed that the impact of family violence and trauma on a child’s development can be profound, leading, in some cases, to poorer development and educational outcomes. It’s a problem many people, including Tricia, are trying to address. But she is also committed to keeping women and children safe in their homes and it’s one reason she has joined McAuley Community Service for Women’s Catherine Circle.

The Catherine Circle is a group of people who are passionate about supporting McAuley Community Services for Women and its works with women who are homeless as well as women and children experiencing family violence. The Circle aims to raise $100,000 each year, which is invested into a program or service the members choose.

Tricia began her career as a speech pathologist, but for the past 20 years she has worked in the research and university sector and is now an Associate Professor with the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in Early Childhood Education and Care.

Through her career she has seen the many factors that contribute to poorer learning outcomes for children subjected to family violence and abuse. It can be the trauma they experience, or witness, in their homes, as well as the inability to access services they may need.

“There is strong evidence that a mother’s mental health has significant impact on a child’s development; in these circumstances a mother often lacks the capacity and resources to be responsive to her child’s needs ” Tricia said.

“It can also be the case that in a family where there is violence or trauma, the resources available, both financial and emotional, to seek support for children’s learning problems are limited and there may be long waiting lists for community services. So the child’s developmental problems are not addressed as early as we would like.”

One example involves a research project Tricia is involved in at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre. Researchers have found that a high number of the young males on remand, or sentenced were raised in disadvantaged, and often chaotic and highly stressful home environments. Such trauma, when coupled with disengagement from school, means these young people are likely to remain on the margins of communities.

“For many of these adolescent males and younger children in out of home care services, there are problems with their capacity to communicate leading to problems with academic success and engagement in school ,” she said.

“It is very circular, so we have to think differently about how we keep mothers and their children safe in their homes so we can try and change the trajectory for many of the children involved. If they can stay in their homes and be safe, they maintain their community connections and their connections to school and education.”

Tricia was drawn to the Catherine Circle because it allows a group, or collective to contribute money and potentially make a significant impact on the issue of family violence.

She said McAuley Community Service for Women’s commitment to working with children as well as women fleeing family violence is important to her.

“I am fortunate to be in a position to donate money to different services and organisations. Often my giving is in response to being ‘caught’ and asked for a contribution. The Catherine Circle means members can consider project options put to us and determine which one will have the most impact.”

Each Catherine Circle members donates $1,000 a year for three years.