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More than one million Australian children are affected by domestic violence, according to the Personal Safety Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006). More than two decades of international research definitively shows that infants, children and adolescents experience serious negative psychological, emotional, social, and developmental impacts to their well- being from the traumatic ongoing experiences of domestic violence. A number of recent Australia studies examining the family law system have brought attention to the experiences of children affected by violence and an urgent call to improving policies and practices to protect and support children and victimised caregivers. Research has shown that children and victimised caregivers can cope and recover, particularly when specialised services are offered. Specialised programs and counselling models are rapidly being developed and implemented, often with a growing focus of attending to the mother-child relationship.
This review examines the literature in general and the recent Australia studies of family law legislation to explore the impacts on children who are affected by domestic violence, and provides recommendations for generalist social service practitioners working with these families.