Yvonne Wakefield, founder of the Warrior Project, says there's a definite link between exposure to violence and relationship conflict. Picture: Pixabay

South Africa is reeling after the rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana. Just a few days prior, Janika Mallo's half-naked body (14) was found in her grandmother's backyard. The list goes on and on.

With the topic of domestic abuse and femicide gaining media attention, questions arise around the effect this epidemic is having on our children, and whether our children’s exposure is perhaps a more significant piece of the puzzle than we think.

Yvonne Wakefield, founder of the Warrior Project, says there's a definite link between exposure to violence and relationship conflict. 

“It’s becoming clear from the research that how we behave as adults in the home affects our childrens’ neurochemistry. If they are exposed to violence or other abusive behaviours between intimate partners, their neurological pathways rewire to associate those behaviours with normal relational conflict,” said Wakefield. “This then, is the blueprint through which they approach relationships later in life."

The Warrior Project is a free online portal making information and resources available to the victims of domestic abuse and violence, including children and teens. The resources include services like Childline, FAMSA and Lifeline, as well as legal and other support.

“The mind develops as the brain responds to ongoing experience… The pattern of firing of neurons is what gives rise to attention, emotion, and memory.” 

"And what fires together - in a combination of violent exposures and the child’s underlying neurobiological experience - wires together”, said psychologist Blake Griffin Edwards in a Psychology Today article while referring to research done by pioneering psychiatrist and researcher Daniel Siegel (2004).

“The link between childhood exposure to domestic violence and the increased risk of them being involved in domestic violence as adults, is now undisputable”, added Wakefield.

Exposure to violence during childhood increases the likelihood of intimate partner violence perpetuation in men up to 4-fold. Exposure to violence during childhood may increase the likelihood of violence acceptance either as a victim or perpetrator in future partnerships and high-risk situations, WHO report on Preventing Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Against Women.

Visit www.thewarriorproject.org.za for more info