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How Domestic Violence and Abuse Affects Children

How Domestic Violence and Abuse Affects Children

How Domestic Violence and Abuse Affects Children

The below extract from a report prepared by UNICEF, highlights the impact that Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse has on children. Children need a safe and secure home, free of violence, and parents/guardians that love and protect them. They need to have a sense of routine and stability, so that when things go wrong in the outside world, home is a place of comfort, help and support.

For too many children, home is far from a safe haven. Every year, hundreds of millions of children are exposed to domestic violence at home, and this has a powerful and profound impact on their lives and hopes for the future. These children not only watch one parent violently assaulting another, they often hear the distressing sounds of violence, or may be aware of it from many telltale signs.

What is the impact of Domestic abuse on Children?

Children who grow up in a violent home are more likely to be victims of child abuse. Those who are not direct victims have some of the same behavioural and psychological problems as children who are themselves physically abused.

Children who are exposed to violence in the home may have difficulty learning and limited social skills, exhibit violent, risky or delinquent behaviour, or suffer from depression or severe anxiety. Children in the earliest years of life are particularly vulnerable: studies show that domestic violence is more prevalent in homes with younger children than those with older children.

Several studies also reveal that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be affected by violence as adults – either as victims or perpetrators. Children who are exposed to violence in the home are denied their right to a safe and stable home environment. Many are suffering silently, and with little support.

Children who are exposed to violence in the home need trusted adults to turn to for help and comfort, and services that will help them to cope with their experiences. There is increased risk of children becoming victims of abuse themselves. There is a common link between domestic violence and child abuse. Among victims of child abuse, 40 per cent report domestic violence in the home.

One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average. This link has been confirmed around the world, with supporting studies from a range of countries including China, South Africa, Colombia, India, Egypt, the Philippines, and Mexico.

There is significant risk of ever-increasing harm to the child’s physical, emotional and social development. Infants and small children who are exposed to violence in the home experience so much added emotional stress, that it can harm the development of their brains and impair cognitive and sensory growth. Behaviour changes can include excessive irritability, sleep problems, emotional distress, fear of being alone, immature behaviour, and problems with toilet training and language development.

At an early age, a child’s brain is becoming ‘hard-wired’ for later physical and emotional functioning. Exposure to domestic violence threatens that development. As they grow, children who are exposed to violence may continue to show signs of problems. Primary-school-age children may have more trouble with school work, and show poor concentration and focus. They tend not to do as well in school. In one study, forty per cent had lower reading abilities than children from non-violent homes.

What children need:

  1. Children need a safe and secure home environment.
  2. Children need to know that there are adults who will listen to them, believe them and shelter them.
  3. Children need a sense of routine and normalcy.
  4. Children need support services to meet their needs.
  5. Children need to learn that domestic violence is wrong and learn non-violent methods of resolving conflicts.
  6. Children need adults to speak out and break the silence

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