Children & Domestic Violence

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

A home in which physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or property damage occurs is frightening, unhealthy, and can be devastating to a child. Children in these homes cannot truly be children. These children try to protect their parents or younger siblings. They worry about being an additional problem or burden to their family and fear for their own safety and security. They have the additional burden of carrying around the family secret.

Physical Abuse

Any injury a parent suffers may also be suffered by the children.

Physical Neglect

The children may be affected by lack of resources such as lack of food, proper shelter, clothing, or other basic needs; limited or no medical attention; poor supervision; and abandonment.

Sexual Abuse

All batterers do not sexually abuse children, but many do.

Emotional Abuse

Whether children are a direct target of emotional abuse (e.g., yelling, name-calling), or witness domestic violence, the effects are long-lasting.

How to Make Your Children Safe

  • Teach them not to get in the middle of a fight, even if they want to help
  • Teach them how to get to safety, to call 911, to give your address and phone number to the police
  • Inform your children's school, daycare, etc. about who has permission to pick up your children

How Children React

  • An intense feeling of sadness, anger, fear, confusion, self-blame, and insecurity
  • Becoming isolated and withdrawn
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor social skills
  • Poor problem-solving skills
  • Taking on parental roles
  • Violent behavior toward other children, pets, and toys Greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse, sexual action out, delinquent behavior, and running away

Learning Violence

  • Children who are the direct targets of the abuse or who witness abuse may grow up to be abusers or to marry abusers.
  • Abusive relationships observed in childhood can become accepted as "normal."
  • Teenagers may become involved in violent relationships with their peers and partners.