Hiding and being hidden: The marginalisation of children’s participation in research and practice responses to domestic violence and abuse


  • Ruth Eliffe School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin
  • Stephanie Holt School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin
  • Carolina Øverlien Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS), and Stockholm University, Sweden


his group is known within the literature to be a hard to reach population. This is namely due to their perceived vulnerability, as well as efforts to protect them by adult gatekeepers, and rigorous ethical procedures that make recruitment efforts often challenging. Consequently, this group, sometimes for their own protection, remain hidden in the shadows when it comes to research and practice responses that continue to operate from an adult-centric lens when children’s agency is not fully acknowledged. This paper sets out to discuss the multiple ways by which children who experience domestic violence both hide and are hidden by adults, rendering them invisible. Based on findings from a qualitative doctoral study that sought to explore children’s experiences of the police response to domestic violence, this paper highlights the interconnectedness between children’s invisibility in practice and research, and the processes through which they become and can remain hidden in these two arenas. The paper calls for a need to bring children’s experiences of domestic violence out of the shadows and to begin to acknowledge their agency and capacity as both research participants and victims.

Author Biographies

Ruth Eliffe, School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin

School of Social Work and Social Policy

Stephanie Holt, School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin

Associate Professor


Abrahams, C. (1994) Hidden Victims: Children and domestic violence. London: NCH Action for children

Alderson, P. & Morrow, V. (2011) The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People: A practical handbook. London: SAGE

Baker, H. (2005) Involving children and young people in research on domestic violence and housing. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 27, 281-297

Barter, C. & Renold, E. (2000) ‘I wanna tell you a story’: Exploring the application of vignettes in qualitative research with children and young people. International Journal of Social Research Metholology, 3, 307-323

Boyatzis, R. (1998) Transforming Qualitative Information. Thousand Oaks: Sage

Bracewell, K. (2017) Teenagers’ Experiences of Domestic Violence Refuges. PhD Thesis, University of Lancashire

Buckley, H., Whelan, S. & Holt, S. (2006) Listen to Me! : Children’s experience of domestic violence. Dublin: Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College

Callaghan, J. & Alexander, J. (2015) Understanding Agency and Resistance Strategies (UNARS): children’s experiences of domestic violence report. Northampton: University of Northampton

Callaghan, J., Alexander, J., Sixsmith, J. & Fellin, L. (2016) Beyond ‘witnessing’: Children’s experiences of coercive control in domestic violence and abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33, 10, 1551-1581

Callaghah, J., Fellin, L., Mavrou, S., Alexander, J. & Sixsmith, J. (2017) The management of disclosure in children’s accounts of domestic violence: Practices of telling and not telling. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 3370-3387

Campbell, A. (2008) For their own good: Recruiting children for research. Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, 15, 30-49

Carroll-Lind , J., Chapman J., Gregory , J., & Maxwell, G. (2006) The key to the gatekeepers: Passive consent and other ethical issues surrounding the rights of children to speak on issues that concern them. Child Abuse and Neglect, 30, 979-989

Cashmore, J. (2006) Ethical issues concerning consent in obtaining children’s reports on their experience of violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 969-77

Cater, A. & Øverlien, C. (2014) Children exposed to domestic violence: a discussion about research ethics and researcher’s responsibilities. Nordic Social Work Research, 4, 67-79

Coyne, I. (2010) Research with children and young people: The issue of parental (proxy) consent. Children & Society, 24, 227-237

Devoe, E. R. & Smith, E. L. (2003) ‘Don’t take my kids:’ Barriers to service delivery for battered mothers and their young children. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 3, 277-294

Downes, J., Kelly, L. & Westmarland, N. (2014) Ethics in violence and abuse research: A positive empowerment approach. Sociological Research Online, 19, 1, 1-13

Edleson, J. L. (1999) Children’s witnessing of adult domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 839-870

Edleson, J. L., Mbilinyi, L. F., Beeman, S. K. & Hagemeister, A. K. (2003) How children are involved in adult domestic violence: Results from a four-city telephone survey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 18-32

Elliffe, R. (2019) Perspectives on the Police Response to Children Present at a Domestic Violence Incident: An Irish Case Study. PhD Thesis, Trinity College Dublin

Elliffe, R. & Holt, S. (2019) Reconceptualizing the child victim in the police response to domestic violence. Journal of Family Violence. 34, 589-600

Eriksson, M. & Nasman, E. (2012) Interviews with children exposed to violence. Children & Society, 26, 63-73

Evang, A. & Øverlien, C. (2015) ‘If you look, you have to leave’: Young children regulating research interviews about experiences of domestic violence. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 13, 113-125

Graham, A., Powell, M. A. & Taylor, N. (2015) Ethical research involving children: Encouraging reflexive engagement in research with children and young people. Children & Society, 29, 331-343

Hester, M. (2007) Making an Impact: Children and domestic violence: A reader. London: Jessica Kingsley

Hill, L. (2015) ‘Don’t make us talk!’: Listening to and learning from children and young people living with parental alcohol problems. Children & Society, 29, 344-354

Hill, M. (2006) Children’s voices on ways of having a voice: Children’s and young people’s perspectives on methods used in research and consultation. Childhood, 13, 69-89

Hill, M. & Tisdall, K. (1997) Children and Society. Harlow: Addison Wesley/Longman

Hogan, F. & O’Reilly, M. (2007) Listening to Children: Children’s stories of domestic violence. Dublin: The Stationery Office

Holden, G. W. (2003) Children exposed to domestic violence and child abuse: Terminology and taxonomy. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 6, 151-160

Holt, S. (2011) Domestic abuse and child contact: Positioning children in the decision-making process. Child Care in Practice, 17, 327-346

Holt, S. (2015) Post-separation fathering and domestic abuse: Challenges and contradictions. Child Abuse Review, 24, 210-222

Houghton, C. (2018) Voice, agency, power: A framework for young survivors’ participation in national domestic abuse policy-making. in S. Holt, C. Øverlien and J. Devaney, (Eds.) Responding to Domestic Violence: Emerging challenges for policy, practice and research in Europe. London Jessica: Kingsley

Iltis, A. S. (2013) Parents, adolescents, and consent for research participation. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 38, 332-346

James, A. (2007) Giving voice to children’s voices: Practices and problems, pitfalls and potentials. American Anthropologist, 109, 261-272

James, A., James, A. & McNamee, S. (2004) Turn down the volume. Not hearing children in family proceedings. Child & Family Law Quarterly, 16, 189-202

James, A. & Prout, A. (1997) Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood : Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. London: Falmer

Katz, E. (2015) Recovery-promoters: Ways in which children and mothers support one another’s recoveries from domestic violence. British Journal of Social Work, 45, i153-i169

Katz, E. (2016) Beyond the physical incident model: How children living with domestic violence are harmed by and resist regimes of coercive control. Child Abuse Review, 25, 46-59

Lewis, A. (2010) Silence in the context of ‘child voice’. Children & Society, 24, 14-23

Liu, C., Cox, R. B., Washburn, I. J., Croff, J. M. & Crethar, H. C. (2017) The effects of requiring parental consent for research on adolescents’ risk behaviors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61, 45-52

McClinton Appollis, T., Lund, C., de Vries, P. J., & Mathews, C. (2015) Adolescents’ and adults’ experiences of being surveyed about violence and abuse: A systematic review of harms, benefits, and regrets. American Journal of Public Health, 105,2, e31–e45

McIntosh, J. (2003) Children living with domestic violence: Research foundations for early intervention. Journal of Family Studies, 9, 219-234

Morris, A., Kelsey, H. & Humphreys, C. (2012) Ethical and safe: Research with children about domestic violence. Research Ethics, 8, 125-139

Nixon, K. L., Tutty, L. M., Radtke, H., Ateah, C. A. & Ursel, E. J. (2017) Protective strategies of mothers abused by intimate partners: Rethinking the deficit model. Violence Against Women, 23, 1271-1292

Øverlien, C. (2017) ‘Do you want to do some arm wrestling?’: Children’s strategies when experiencing domestic violence and the meaning of age. Child & Family Social Work, 22, 680-688

Øverlien, C. & Aas, G. (2016) The police patrols and children experiencing domestic violence. Police Practice and Research, 17, 434-447

Øverlien, C. & Holt, S. (2018) Including children and adolescents in domestic violence research. in S. Holt, C. Øverlien and J. Devaney, (Eds.) Responding to Domestic Violence: Emerging challenges for policy, practice and research in Europe. London: Jessica Kingsley

Øverlien, C. & Hyden, M. (2009) Children’s actions when experiencing domestic violence. Childhood, 16, 479-496

Pernebo, K. & Almqvist, K. (2016) Young children’s experiences of participating in group treatment for children exposed to intimate partner violence: A qualitative study. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 21, 119-32

Powell, M. A. & Smith, A. B. (2009) Children’s participation rights in research. Childhood, 16, 124-142

Radford, L., Aitken, R., Miller, P., Ellis, J., Roberts, J. & Firkic, A. (2011) Meeting the Needs of Children Living with Domestic Violence In London. London: NSPCC

Richardson-Foster, H., Stanley, N., Miller, P. & Thomson, G. (2012) Police intervention in domestic violence incidents where children are present: Police and children’s perspectives. Policing and Society, 22, 220-234

Simons, H. (2009) Case Study Research in Practice. London, Sage

Stanley, N., Miller, P. & Foster, H. R. (2012) Engaging with children’s and parents’ perspectives on domestic violence. Child & Family Social Work, 17, 192-201

Swanston, J., Bowyer, L. & Vetere, A. (2014) Towards a richer understanding of school-age children’s experiences of domestic violence: The voices of children and their mothers. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 19, 184-201

Tisdall, E. K. M. & Punch, S. (2012) ‘Not so ‘new’? Looking critically at childhood studies. Children’s Geographies, 10, 249-264

United Nations (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child. Geneva: United Nations

Wyness, M. G. (2006) Childhood and Society : An introduction to the sociology of childhood. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan



How to Cite

Eliffe, R., Holt, S., & Øverlien, C. (2020). Hiding and being hidden: The marginalisation of children’s participation in research and practice responses to domestic violence and abuse. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 5-24. Retrieved from https://journals.whitingbirch.net/index.php/SWSSR/article/view/1438