Impacts of Child Victimization

  • woman with her head down

The branch of developmental victimology that studies the impact of victimization on children posits that children at different stages of development experience and cope with victimization in different ways.

Prior research into differing impacts has been narrowly focused on sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. Developmental victimology addresses a much broader range of victimizations, focusing particularly on victimizations experienced by a majority of children, such as peer or sibling assault and theft.

Developmental victimology explores a broad range of potential impacts beyond those falling in the realm of psychopathology, including effects on personality, social skills, political and social attitudes. It further focuses on how these impacts are felt and manifested at different stages of child development.

CCRC researchers have developed at theoretical framework, called the Developmental Dimensions Model of Victimization Impact, that identifies four distinct dimensions that have a bearing on how victimizations impact children. They are:

  • Appraisals of the victimization and its implications. Children at different stages appraise victimizations differently and tend to form different expectations based on those appraisals.
  • Task application. Children at different stages are facing different developmental tasks, upon which their appraisals will be applied.
  • Coping strategies. Children at different stages of development have available to them different repertoires of coping strategies with which to respond to stress and conflict produced by victimizations.
  • Environmental buffers. Children at different stages of development operate in different social and family contexts which can alter how victimization affects them.

Source: David Finkelhor & Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (1997). A Developmental Perspective on the Childhood Impact of Crime, Abuse & Violent Victimization. In D. Cicchetti & S. Toth (Eds.), Developmental Perspectives on Trauma: Theory, Research, and Intervention (pp. 1-32).  New York: University of Rochester Press.