For parents who fall victim to domestic violence, the abuse endured takes a toll on their well-being. However, parents who fall victim to domestic violence are not the only ones who are affected by domestic violence. Domestic violence can have negative effects on every member of the family, including children. The effects of domestic violence on children who watch their parents being abused are heart-breaking. Below is a look at how witnessing domestic violence can affect children.

How Witnessing Domestic Violence Can Affect Children Emotionally

Witnessing domestic violence can lead to children suffering many emotional consequences. Some of the emotional complications a child who has witnessed domestic violence can suffer include;

  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Intense grief
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Anger
  • Self-blaming tendencies
  • Embarrassment
  • Depression

Unfortunately, the emotional consequences of witnessing domestic violence can plague a child for years to come. For example, an anxious child raised in an abusive environment may grow up to become a depressed adult.

Behavioural and Social Consequences of Witnessing Domestic Violence

A child who witnesses domestic violence might end up acting aggressively. In fact, teenagers may act out, fight, use drugs, or engage in risky sexual activities. A child who witnesses domestic abuse may experience relationship trouble. He or she may start avoiding social situations. All these are examples of the behavioural and social consequences that can arise after a child witnesses his or her father or mother being abused.

Additionally, children who witness domestic violence risk becoming violent adults or domestic violence victims.

Physical Challenges That Can Arise After a Child Witnesses Domestic Violence

Emotional strains and behavioural and social consequences are the most common results of witnessing the abuse of a parent; however, children can also face physical challenges due to witnessing domestic violence. For instance, a child may report headaches, stomach pains and other ailments to other adults such as his or her teacher, resulting from the situation at home.

What Factors Impact the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children?

How a child is affected by witnessing a parent go through abuse is dependent on several factors. First, the nature or seriousness of the abuse can impact the effects of domestic violence on a child. Also, a child who frequently witnesses domestic violence may be impacted more than a child who witnesses domestic violence only a few times. The age of the child can also have an impact on the effects of domestic violence. Younger children tend to have greater emotional distress compared with older children.  In sum, all domestic violence is detrimental to children, though the degrees of violence can vary from situation to situation as can the responses from children.

Protecting Children From Domestic Abuse

Knowing how domestic violence can affect children, it is crucial to take steps to shield them from abuse. One of the steps toward protecting children from domestic violence is for parents to seek the necessary support needed to free them from the abusive environment.  Also, in ideal situations, children should be taught healthy ways of resolving disputes in friendships so they grow up knowing that violence is not the answer but that can be impossible if the children are living in abusive environments over which they have no control.


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