Kids who witness domestic violence are more likely to get in trouble at school and have behavioral problems, including being aggressive and bullying their classmates.

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NPR journalist Gabrielle Emanuel covered the research of SMU government policy expert Elira Kuka for an All Things Considered segment on NPR as part of its series on “The Mental Health Crisis In Our Schools.” The segment examined the impact on an entire school classroom when one student is victimized by domestic violence at home.

Kuka, an assistant professor in the SMU Department of Economics, and her colleagues found that new data shows violence in the home hinders the academic performance not only of the student who is abused, but also of their classmates, too.

Kuka’s research focus is on understanding how government policy affects individual behavior and well-being, the extent to which it provides social insurance during times of need, and its effectiveness in alleviation of poverty and inequality.

Her current research topics include the potential benefits of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, the protective power of the U.S. safety net during recessions and various issues in academic achievement.

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EXCERPT:

By Gabrielle Emanuel
NPR

Every Monday morning at Harvie Elementary School, in Henrico County, Va., Brett Welch stands outside her office door as kids file in.

“The first thing I’m looking for are the faces,” says Welch, a school counselor. She’s searching for hints of fear, pain or anger.

“Maybe there was a domestic incident at the house that weekend,” says Welch. “That’s reality for a lot of our kids.”

And a reality for a lot of kids in the U.S. While it’s difficult to get an exact number, researchers estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of children are exposed to domestic violence each year.

New data quantifies what many teachers and school counselors already know: While such violence often takes place outside of school, its repercussions resonate in the classroom.

It hurts not only the kids who witness the violence, but also their classmates. The harm is evident in lower test scores as well as lower rates of college attendance and completion. And the impact extends past graduation — it can be seen in lower earnings later in life.

“It’s a sad story,” says Scott Carrell, economist at the University of California, Davis, who has studied this for over a decade.

But, he says, there’s one thing he and his colleagues — economists Mark Hoekstra and Elira Kuka — found that can improve the situation “not only for that family but for all the child’s classmates.” What was it? Reporting domestic violence when it happens.

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