Domestic violence takes many forms:  physical, mental, emotional, financial, sexual, etc.   One thing all these forms have in common is that they affect not only the abused partner but also the children.  Domestic violence is sometimes called “Family Violence” .  Children who witness acts of violence are at much greater risk of emotional and behavioral problems than other children.  Estimates indicate there are over 4 million children exposed to physical and verbal partner abuse each year in the U.S.  Exposure means seeing or hearing the actual abuse or dealing with the aftermath of the abuse.  It should also be noted that children in these families are also at much greater risk of being abused themselves.

The effects on children in families with domestic violence can be short-term or/and long-term.  It is a traumatic and terrifying experience for children.   Some of the short and long-term effects are listed here.  Children will react in different ways.   Some children are extremely resilient while others show severe signs of stress.

Short Term Effects

  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Illnesses caused by stress such as headaches, stomach problems, flu and asthma
  • Bed-wetting
  • Aggressive or destructive behavior
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Becoming increasingly anxious or fearful
  • Social withdrawal
  • Blaming themselves for the abuse
  • Poor school performance

Long Term Effects

  • Allowing future victimization of themselves
  • Drug and alcohol dependence 
  • Behaving in abusive ways in adult relationships
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Post traumatic stress disorder

Some ways to help a child victim of domestic abuse are:  reassure the child that the incidents are not their fault, obtain counseling for family victims, show them love, protect them by moving them to a place of safety,  and be a good role model.  

Seeking help to take action against the abuse shows your child that it is not acceptable to treat people in that manner or be treated that way.

Do you need guidance?  Call your local shelter/domestic violence agency.