How Does Domestic Violence And Abuse Affect Children?

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A lot of children who are unsheltered from violence in the home are also typically victims of physical abuse. Those who see domestic violence or the victims themselves are at a greater risk for longstanding physical and emotional health problems. Additionally, children who are living with a parent who is physically or verbally abused are inclined to be violent in their other relationships in the future. If you are a parent, it is important to know the effects of domestic violence on your child and how you can protect them.

Psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett says, “If a mother is beaten while pregnant, there is a chance the baby will be injured, delivered prematurely, and there is a stack of other things that can happen – including physiological programming of the hyperactive stress system that leads to inflammation as an adult,”

The Short-Term Effects

A child living with one parent who is abused may foster anxious and fearful emotions. He would be often guarded and anticipating the next violent incident to occur. He may react in various ways, depending on his age.


  • Child in preschool. A child who is often exposed to partner violence may be doing things he used to do when he was at a younger age, like bedwetting, constant whining and crying, and thumb-sucking. He also has problems with normal sleeping patterns, stuttering, and signs of intense separation anxiety.
  • Child in middle school. Once the child reaches middle school and begins to understand violence for what it is, he may feel guilty when he sees his mom being hurt by his dad and may blame himself for the abuse. The usual personality of this child is not very positive, with low self-esteem, anti-social, and usual troublemaker.


  • Child in high school. Witnessing abuse can come out very negatively for the teenager in high school. He may subconsciously inculcate the abusive patterns and may become violent himself. This would include skipping school or fighting with family or friends. He is also inclined to engage in unprotected sex and alcohol or drug use. Most teens that are exposed to any form of abuse end up being bullies according to evidence-based studies. Boys and girls alike also experience depression and low self-esteem.

“Family violence is complex,” explains Dr. Karen Weiss, a clinical psychologist, “and can occur in a range of circumstances and family settings. The context of the family violence case can be disarming and even heartbreaking. The distressing effect on women, children, and men is often long term, spanning generations.”

The Long-Term Effects

“Many domestic violence victims try to conceal their abuse—both literally and figuratively.  Nonetheless, evidence of a turbulent home life often manifests itself through a victim’s emotional displays in the workplace, as well as physical signs of abuse, often (unsuccessfully) characterized as frequent “accidents.” – Wendy L. Patrick, JD, Ph.D.

Today, there are over 15 million children in America who live in homes where physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse occurred at least once. Sadly, they have a greater likelihood of replicating the cycle when they go into their adulthood – they abuse their partners, or they get into abusive relationships in the future. On the other hand, those who experience abuse themselves are at a higher risk for mental and physical health issues, such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, poor self-confidence, and many more.


Healing From Abuse And Domestic Violence


There are different reactions to different children who witness or experience trauma. Some children may be tougher, while others are more delicate and weak. For healing to be possible, there must be a space for the child to relearn good habits and forming healthy relationships. He must also be taught how to regain his self-confidence. Finally, he must have a supportive network, like family, friends, and significant others, whose love and sympathy would tremendously help the child succeed in his journey towards healing and recovery.


Perhaps children will always remember the trauma they have seen or experienced. However, through good support and learning healthy strategies of dealing with the past, they will be on their way to recovery. The sooner it is that they find the help that they need, the better his chances are for successfully regaining his physical, mental, and emotional wellness.




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