Mental health and domestic violence in households with children during lockdown measures in Belgium

Auteurs & affiliatie

Lisa Fomenko, Lotte De Schrijver, Christophe Vandeviver, Ines Keygnaert


Background: To contain for the COVID-19 pandemic, governments worldwide restricted social and physical contact by issuing lockdown and social-distancing measures. Yet, lockdown measures may induce mental health problems and increase the occurrence of domestic violence (psychological, physical and sexual violence). Households with children (minors) are known to be even more vulnerable. Besides, studies from the first months of the COVID-19-pandemic showed that only 6% reached out for help during the first lockdown measures in Belgium, Germany and Portugal. We will therefore examine the relationship between risk factors of domestic violence and domestic violence itself, focusing on domestic violence on children. Method: In this cross-sectional study, an online self-report questionnaire on relationships, stress and aggression was administered to a non-probabilistic sample of participants living in Belgium between January and March 2021. Participants were sampled through national media, social media, and snowballing procedures. Results: 870 participants living with a minor were included in the analysis of which 134 (15.4%) reported that their child had been a victim of domestic violence during the second lockdown phase in Belgium (between November and March 2021). Parents of victimized children reported significantly higher levels of stress and a bigger household size. Besides, the odds of having a victimized child were 3.4 times higher for parents that were victimized themselves before the COVID-19 pandemic and 1.8 times higher during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to parents that were never victimized. Conclusions: Domestic violence appears to be common in households with minors, linked with COVID-19 lockdown measures, and associated with adverse mental health outcomes. These findings highlight the need for public health measures lowering the barriers to seeking help after domestic violence and increasing access to mental health care. Recommendation will be made concerning the screening and how to reach out to victims of domestic violence.




Lotte De Schrijver
Ines Keygnaert

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