Children are exposed to or experience domestic violence in many ways.

They may hear one parent/caregiver threaten the other, observe a parent who is out of control or reckless with anger, see one parent assault the other, or live with the aftermath of a violent assault.Many children are affected by hearing threats to the safety of their caregiver, regardless of whether it results in physical injury. Children who live with domestic violence are also at increased risk to become direct victims of child abuse.

Domestic violence poses a serious threat to children's emotional, psychological, and physical well-being, particularly if the violence is chronic.

Children who are exposed to domestic violence are affected emotionally, behaviorally, physically, socially and cognitively. Some children act out with aggression towards others because with modeled aggressive and violent behaviors. They see violence used to resolve conflicts and they can use violence to distance them from other.

Infants and toddlers who witness or experience violence show excessive irritability, immature behavior, sleep disturbances, emotional distress, fears of being alone, and regression in toileting and language.

Warning Signs:

  • Bed-wetting, stomach aches, headaches, eating disorders, nightmares
  • Depression
  • Desensitization to pain
  • Developmental delays
  • Extreme separation anxiety
  • Fear of being alone
  • Feelings of guilt or over-responsibility
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Low self-esteem, secrecy, fear, anger, guilt
  • Nervous, anxious, short attention span
  • Poor physical hygiene
  • Regression in development
  • Self abuse
  • Sympathetic toward their mother
  • Tired, lethargic

Short-Term Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • High activity levels
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased anxiety about being separated from a parent
  • Intense worry about their safety or the safety of a parent

Long-Term Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

  • Physical health problems
  • Behavior problems in adolescence (e.g., juvenile delinquency, alcohol, substance abuse)
  • Emotional difficulties in adulthood (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD)
  • Exposure to domestic violence has also been linked to poor school performance. Children who grow up with domestic violence may have impaired ability to concentrate; difficulty in completing school work; and lower scores on measures of verbal, motor, and social skills.
  • Children may learn that it is acceptable to exert control or relieve stress by using violence, or that violence is linked to expressions of intimacy and affection.

In addition to these physical, behavioral, psychological, and cognitive effects, children who have been exposed to domestic violence often learn destructive lessons about the use of violence and power in relationships. These lessons can have a powerful negative effect on children in social situations and relationships throughout childhood and in later life.

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