Emotional Intelligence: Challenging the Perceptions and Efficacy of ‘Soft Skills’ in Policing Incidents of Domestic Abuse Involving Children

Annemarie Millar*, John Devaney, Michelle Butler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
248 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: It is now widely accepted that living with domestic abuse (DA) can significantly affect children, with the effects of DA continuing to be felt into adulthood. The common conceptualisation of children as passive ‘witnesses’ of DA and the failure to recognise them as direct ‘victims’ in their own right, separate from adult victims, can act as a major barrier for professionals responding to children within this context. The first professionals with whom many child victims of DA come into contact often are members of the police. Yet, little is still known about how children and police officers experience these encounters. Method: The aim of this paper is to conduct a narrative review of the existing literature on the police response to children at DA call outs through the lens of Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 1996). Results: Reviewed studies state that a large number of police officers reported feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty at incidents of DA involving children. Children reported significant differences in empathy of officers, a key tenet of EI, which impacted their feelings of safety and visibility at incidents of DA. Conclusions: DA incidents are an emotionally challenging aspect of police work and most officers do not appear to have the skills to manage this effectively. The significance of speaking with children in these traumatic situations cannot be understated. EI appears to make an important contribution to the overall efficacy of officers at incidents of DA involving children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-588
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number6
Early online date12 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • Children
  • Domestic abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Family violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Law enforcement officer, emotional intelligence
  • Police officer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Spectroscopy
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Law


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