The Grapevine

Kids Exposed To Domestic Violence Cost The Government $55 Billion Every Year

Nearly 27% of American women and 11% of American men have reported experiencing physical violence, sexual violence or stalking by intimate partners at least once in their lives. According to another study, almost 15.5 million American children lived in families where at least one incident of domestic violence had occurred in the previous year.

Many worry about the short-term and long-term impact of this public health problem, which sadly goes unreported at times. Recently, researchers from Case Western Reserve University revealed that domestic violence not only affects children who are exposed to it but also imposes an economic burden on society at large. 

The report titled "Economic Burden of Child Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the United States" was published in The Journal of Family Violence on Feb. 19.

Domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. It often occurs in the form of habitual abuse and attacks, affecting millions of Americans. Children living in such homes are often severely affected in direct and indirect ways.

Not having responsible parental figures to look up to and witnessing IPV can make the child feel as if they have done something to cause the violence. They may continue to feel unsafe outside their homes, finding it difficult to focus on school or friends. Growing up in an atmosphere of anxiety, fear, and violence can be detrimental to a child's psychological health and may even cause lifelong trauma.

They may also suffer physical injury by the perpetrator, especially if the child attempts to intervene and protect the abused partner. As the child grows up, this kind of exposure can make them more susceptible to escapism, drug abuse, eating disorders, failure at school, anger issues, suicidal behavior, and more.

"This is a significant public-health problem that not only means long-term consequences for these children but also imposes a substantial financial burden to society," said Megan R. Holmes, assistant professor and founding director of the Center on Trauma and Adversity at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

By the time a child exposed to IPV reaches age 64, the researchers estimate that the average cost to the American economy will reach nearly $50,000. An incidence-based approach was used to calculate the following figures:

First, in terms of healthcare, almost $11,000 will be spent on the use of hospital care and physician services. Crime costs will also see an increase up to $14,000 as exposure to IPV can increase the likelihood of robbery, assault, homicide, rape, etc. Finally, productivity will suffer due to lower educational attainment, leading to losses of nearly $26,000.

"And that’s just for one person," Holmes added. "If we consider Ohio’s young adults, for example, the 172,500 Ohioans who are 20 years old, the cumulative lifetime cost for the estimated 25 percent who were exposed to domestic violence as children will be nearly $2.18 billion. Applied to the entire nation, the economic burden becomes substantial — over $55 billion."

Being the first study to explore the economic costs of domestic violence exposure, the research has been described as "groundbreaking" by Rebecca J. Macy, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Family Violence. The authors hoped that the findings will help policymakers in pushing for more effective programs to tackle and reduce incidents of IPV.