Book Review of "Making an Impact: Children and Domestic Violence A Reader" by Marianne Hester, Chris Pearson, Nicola Harwin, Hilary Abrahams.

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A knowledge and understanding of what domestic violence actually is, and the effect it has on those involved, is crucial for practitioners in order to work effectively with children and domestic violence. This Reader was originally commissioned in 1998 by the Department of Health and produced by a consortium consisting of the NSPCC, Barnardo's and the Domestic Violence Research Group at the University of Bristol. This second edition, newly published in 2007, provides an updated review of the research and legislation on domestic violence and the consequences for children. In their introduction the authors hope that the book will enable professionals working with families to develop informed and appropriately sophisticated responses that safeguard and promote the welfare of children living in circumstances of domestic violence.An impressive amount of information is presented, yet the layout of the book is extremely clear and easy to read. The 12 chapters are neatly organised around a three-part structure. Part One begins by outlining the research evidence for the links between domestic violence and the abuse of children. It highlights that domestic violence is an important indicator of risk of harm to children and assesses the effects on children's lives and future well-being. Statistical data from the British Crime Survey 2001 are also included. Part Two deals with the legal context, discussing protection against domestic violence under criminal, civil and housing law. Two useful tables are presented to summarise the advantages and disadvantages of using criminal law and civil law in cases of domestic violence. Part Three concludes by discussing practice interventions with children, women and male perpetrators of domestic violence. It argues that certain factors such as attention to safety and confidentiality and a non-judgemental approach are key components of effective support-giving. The benefits of multi-agency practice are emphasised. Each of the 12 chapters ends with a concise point-by-point summary, thus making it an easily accessible reference resource for the busy practitioner. An extensive bibliography and a useful subject index are also included. The authors are meticulous in defining their terminology and from the outset make a point of using the term “survivors of domestic violence” in preference to the word “victim”, in order to avoid negative connotations of passivity and to convey a more positive approach. They note that children are not merely passive bystanders to the domestic violence occurring around them. They act and make choices, and many children develop a wide range of complex strategies of coping and survival.There is a possibility that some readers may have concerns with the fact that the main focus of this book is only relationships between men and women, and men are largely viewed as perpetrators and women on the receiving end of violence and abuse. The policy and legislation discussed generally pertains to England, and readers in other jurisdictions may feel somewhat left out; nevertheless, this is a highly recommended book and a must-have for all professionals who wish to help and support children affected by domestic violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-232
Number of pages2
JournalChild Care in Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2008

Bibliographical note

DOI: 10.1080/13575270701868926


  • Domestic violence
  • child abuse
  • child neglect


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