Arguments and violence in the family
Arguments are part of family life. They occur in every relationship sometimes. However, you should consider and discuss what the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are during an argument.
- If arguments pose a problem in your relationship, you should seek help, for example at couples counselling. There you will receive support in forming functional interaction and looking after your relationship.
- Read more about functional interaction at the Good relationships page.
- Tips for constructive arguments are available on the Vanhempainnetti service provided by the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (in Finnish).
The difference between an argument and violence may be small. All actions that hurt, threaten or scare constitute violence. This page provides information on the different forms of violence.
Violence may have many other forms besides hurting someone physically. A safe adult protects the child from all forms of violence. Home is a place where all feelings should be allowed.
There are situations in which people have the right to feel anger or sadness, but violence is never part of arguing.
If you are worried about your own or your partner’s behaviour or if it causes fear in the other members of your family, you should seek help. There are organisations operating in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area that provide support for the parties involved in violence, free of charge. If you are considering seeking help, it usually means you need it.
Below you can find information on organisations operating in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area that work with violence, providing advice and support.
Outside of office hours, you can contact the City of Helsinki’s emergency social services: 0206 96006.
In acute and threatening situations, you should immediately contact the police. If you cannot stay home because of a risk of violence, you can call any shelter to seek help to resolve the situation. You can also ask for advice from a professional online through the Finnish Online Family Shelter maintained by the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters.
Different forms of domestic violence
Source: Lyömätön linja Espoossa ry
- name-calling, belittling, criticising and disparaging
- controlling and criticising where another person goes, how they dress and what they do
- dominating another person or forcing them to act according to another’s will
- claiming that a family member is mentally ill
- threatening with violence or suicide, breaking things
- threatening with the loss of custody or visitation rights
- creating an atmosphere of fear and threat by following someone around, calling them and sending them messages
- belittling, criticising and mocking another person’s spirituality or religiousness
- forcing someone to behave or live their life a certain way with arguments based on religion
- forcing someone to enter an arranged marriage against their will
- criticising someone’s appearance, or their femininity or masculinity
- comparing them sexually to other women or men
- threatening to cheat and cheating
- forcing, pressuring or persuading another to perform a sexual act or to watch pornography
- sexual harassment, making advances or touching without consent
- pushing or slapping someone, holding them down and moving them to another room
- hitting, kicking and biting
- threatening someone with a club, a gun or a knife, or using weapons
- hair pulling and scratching
- strangling and smothering
- throwing things at someone
- making big financial decisions without discussing them
- giving a weekly allowance to an adult or not allowing them to have money
- stopping an adult from opening their own bank account
- controlling how another adult uses their money
Violence against children can be all of the above, and in addition it can involve
- creating fear by raging about
- pulling the children’s hair and flicking them
- bullying as if it were a game
- breaking toys
- shaking and rough handling
- stopping a child from seeing other children or other children’s parents, or other people who are important to the child
- prohibiting a child from attending school or hobbies, or making it harder for the child to attend these
Children can also be used as instruments in violence in the form of
- being derogatory about the other parent or other people who are important to the child when the child is present
- using the child to pass on negative messages between the parents
- misusing visits with the child
Impact on the child
Both physical and psychological violence in the family are detrimental to the child’s growth and development, even if they are not targeted directly at the child. The child must be able to feel safe even if the adults are arguing and regardless of any crisis situations.
When a child lives in a family in which violence is used, the child does not learn to respect the integrity of others. An atmosphere of violence can evoke severe feelings of insecurity in the child, and this may be reflected as difficulties in committing to close relationships. Violence or a threat of violence are not part of arguing, and they are always damaging to all parties.
Domestic violence infringes the child’s human rights. According to the Constitution of Finland, the right to physical and psychological integrity and safety is part of the basic and human rights of us all, children included. The child’s right to participation, care, social resources and special protection are also among the key principles of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Violence against children
Violence against children refers to being the target of physical or psychological violence or both, witnessing them, living in an atmosphere of violence, and the problems and threat of trauma these may cause to the child. Violence or a threat of violence bring with them a continuous fear that control’s the child’s life. Family and home are anchors in the child’s life. They should offer protection and bear the responsibility for ensuring that everyday life runs smoothly. This is why violence is most detrimental to children when it happens in their own home.
Sometimes parents or carers may lose their calm momentarily and shake the baby if they become angry or too tired. Shaking may cause serious damage to the baby and must never be done.
Physical violence within the family is a crime according to Finnish law. Violence usually does not stop until someone intervenes. On the contrary, it usually increases and becomes more brutal over time.
Source: psychiatrist Ben Furman, MuksuoppiAppi
No matter how hard parents try to protect their children from having dreadful experiences, it is the nature of life that almost all children go through such experiences anyway.
Common dreadful experiences that children can experience include accidents and natural disasters, getting lost, serious illness in the family, separation from a loved one, death of a family member, witnessing domestic violence, experiencing bullying or abuse, etc.
Children are resilient
Children are masters of coping. They usually recover well from the awful things they have to go though. They use all kinds of coping mechanisms to deal with their experience. They may, for example, talk with a friend or a trusted adult about what happened, they may draw pictures about what they have seen, they may play a game where a doll experiences what they have experienced, or they may want you to read to them, again and again, a children’s story that touches the same theme.
If for any reason you have the feeling that the child needs extra help to cope with whatever they have gone through, you may find the guidelines below helpful:
- Avoid pushing or pressing the child to talk about their experience. Children will talk when they are ready.
- Offer the child opportunities to talk spontaneously about their experience by spending time with them.
- If the child does not want to talk about their experience, they may still want to deal with, for example, by drawing pictures of what happened, or listening to stories of how other people have survived similar experiences.
- If the child wants to talk with you about their experience, allow them to speak freely and focus on simply listening to their experience.
- If the child presents questions, answer as best you can. If you don’t know the answer, don’t hesitate to say that you don’t know.
- Show interest and appreciate the ways in which the child has coped with the event. Compliment the child for having been brave, wise, or smart. Say things like “That was a clever thing to do. How did you know to do that?”.
- Assume the position that children can survive almost anything and the best way for adults to support them is simply to be there for them and to appreciate their own coping strategies.
Help provided by organisations in Helsinki
For victims of violence:
Domestic Violence Unit, Pääkaupungin turvakoti ry
Help with violence, Monika-Naiset liitto ry
Phone service and peer groups - Naisten Linja Suomessa ry
For perpetrators of violence:
Lyömätön linja, Miessakit ry
Domestic Violence Unit, Pääkaupunkiseudun turvakoti ry
Domestic Violence Unit, Pääkaupunkiseudun turvakoti ry