Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Domestic violence-related crimes affect every member of the family, including the children. Children witnessing domestic violence live in constant fear and feel as if they are physically abused. They are often unable to establish nurturing bonds with either parent. Children are at greater risk for abuse and neglect if they live in a violent home.

“Families under stress produce children under stress. If a spouse is being abused and there are children in the home, the children are affected by the abuse.” (Ackerman and Pickering, 1989)

Dynamics of domestic violence are unhealthy for children:

  • Control of family by one dominant member
  • Abuse of a parent
  • Isolation
  • Protecting the “family secret”

Children react to their environment in different ways, and reactions can vary depending on the child’s gender and age. Children exposed to family violence are more likely to develop social, emotional, psychological and or behavioural problems than those who are not. Recent research indicates that children who witness domestic violence show more anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, anger and temperament problems than children who do not witness violence in the home. The trauma they experience can show up in emotional, behavioural, social and physical disturbances that affect their development and can continue into adulthood.

Some potential effects:

    Grief for family and personal losses

  • Shame, guilt, and self-blame
  • Confusion about conflicting feelings toward parents
  • Fear of abandonment, or expressing emotions, the unknown or personal injury
  • Anger
  • Depression and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Embarrassment


    Acting out or withdrawing

  • Aggressive or passive
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Care-taking; acting as a parent substitute
  • Lying to avoid confrontation
  • Rigid defences
  • Excessive attention seeking
  • Bedwetting and nightmares
  • Out of control behaviour
  • Reduced intellectual competency
  • Manipulation, dependency, mood swings


  • Isolation from friends and relatives
  • Stormy relationships
  • Difficulty in trusting, especially adults
  • Poor anger management and problem-solving skills
  • Excessive social involvement to avoid home
  • Passivity with peers or bullying
  • Engaged in exploitative relationships as perpetrator or victim


  • Somatic complaints, headaches and stomach-aches
  • Nervous, anxious, short attention span
  • Tired and lethargic
  • Frequently ill
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Regression in development
  • High-risk play
  • Self-abuse

(Source: ACADV)

To prevent the children from becoming behavioral deviant and involvement in the anti-social activities, there should be a strong care-giving system in place for these children to support their psycho-social needs particularly need to build relationship bondage between the children and their parent will heal them highly from trauma. Therefore society as a whole should provide care and protection to those children who deprived of parental care.