Theoretical Explanations of Impact: Accounting for Change
What caused these changes? What theoretical tools do we have to help us understand? These issues are considered in the following discussion of impact and change.
All living involves change, and the task here is to account for change. With children exposed to family violence the change is usually referred to as the impact of exposure. In this context impact is usually thought of as negative. How can this change called impact be accounted for? Theories of coping are helpful here since they consider processes of change in stressful situations where harm is anticipated. Coping includes all the processes for managing, through cognitive, emotional, behavioral, or all of these activities, internal or external demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). One may cope in an anticipatory manner by acting to prepare for a likely stressful event, and proactive coping includes actions taken well in advance of potentially stressful happenings to prevent or modify them even though their occurrence is uncertain (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1997). Thus theories of different kinds of coping consider change activities taken with regard to possible
66 Children and Interparental Violence
or actual negative events. They help us think about impact as a type of unconscious or conscious reaction of exposed children to try to manage the distress and possible danger associated with exposure. One can also consider changes people make in the absence of threat or negative consequences, but these are usually written about in the domains of self-actualization, curiosity, creativity, etc., rather than coping. Both changes made to avoid harm and in the absence of harm are integral to adaptation and growth.