Impact of domestic violence and abuse on children
Domestic violence and abuse affects the whole family and children are particularly vulnerable in a violent or abusive home.
Domestic violence and abuse has a direct and sometimes lasting effect on children. Nearly 2 in 3 children (62%) exposed to domestic violence and abuse were also directly harmed. The effects of domestic violence and abuse on children can last well into adult life. However, just because a boy has seen abusive behaviour doesn’t mean he has to become an abuser. Equally, girls don’t have to become victims just because they saw a parent being abused.
How children might behave after being exposed to domestic violence
Every child will react differently to domestic violence and abuse. However, there are some key indicators to look out for in children who might be living in a violent or abusive home.
- Anxious or depressed behaviour
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Trouble sleeping
- May start to complain about physical symptoms such as tummy aches
- May start to wet the bed
- Temper tantrums or problems in school
- Start to regress in behaviour and act much younger than they are
- Start to withdraw or become aggressive
- Have a low sense of self worth
- Older children may start to take up addictive behaviours such as taking drugs, self-harming and eating disorders
How children might be feeling
Living with or moving on from domestic violence and abuse is a continual process. It is important to be aware that children might be feeling angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused. Their feeling towards their parents will also be complex and confusing. They may well be ambivalent towards both the abuser and the non-abusing parent.
Further reading around domestic abuse and children
- NSPCC’s guide to domestic violence and children
- Refuge’s guide to domestic violence and children
- Women’s Aid guide to domestic violence and children