Childhood Violence Exposure and Disability

Perkins, S. (2012). An ecological perspective on the comorbidity of childhood violence exposure and disabilities: Focus on the ecology of the school. Psychology of Violence, 2(1), 75-89.

Disability and childhood exposure to violence are interconnected.  Children with disabilities are more likely than nondisabled children to experience violence.  Those with behavioral disorders and language impairments experience the highest rates of abuse.  In addition, children who experience violence are more likely to become disabled. For example, up to one quarter of childhood brain injuries are caused by maltreatment. In contrast to most studies of disability and violence, which have have taken an individual-level approach, Perkins (2012) used an ecological framework, which suggests that this phenomenon is the result of an interaction between factors at the individual, family, community, and societal level.  Perkins’ research review focused specifically on schools as a microcosm of these interacting factors. Several areas were identified as targets for potential intervention. Families with poor mental health, high levels of stress, and drug or alcohol abuse are at higher risk for maltreatment of children with disabilities.  In the classroom, teachers and peers may have more negative interactions with disabled students and these students are more likely to experience bullying and victimization.  In the community, poverty increases the risk of both disability and violence. The author recommended that training for school psychologists include strategies for assessing and intervening in the mutually interacting attributes of violence and disability.

Making Connections


Media Supplement

This NPR podcast investigates potentially dangerous methods used to discipline children in special education classes. [4 min 46 sec]

An ecological model of interpersonal violence is presented by The Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) of the World Health Organization (WHO).