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Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Over 3 million children are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year. Children in homes where a parent is abusing their partner are likely to:

  • Be injured during an incident of parental violence.
  • Be traumatized by fear for their mother and their own helplessness in protecting her.
  • Blame themselves for not preventing the violence or for causing it.
  • Be abused or neglected themselves.

But not all children grow up to be abusers, in fact 74% of all abusers did not grow up in abusive homes. Violence is a choice.

The Link between Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is the leading indicator for child abuse in the home; the two issues are in fact linked. Children are always abused when one of their caretakers is abused … the trauma of living in a violent home cannot be underestimated. It is rare that abuse of a parent occurs without children knowing, even if children do not see the abuse in person or are “asleep” when it happens. Accountability falls with the abuser, not with the victim.

  • Children living in homes where domestic violence is occurring are physically or sexually abused, or are seriously neglected at a rate 1500% higher than the national average.
  • Nearly half of men who abuse their partners also abuse their children.
  • Nationally, 75% of battered women say that their children are also battered
  • Eight times as many women report using physical discipline on their children while with their batterer than when living alone or in a non-battering relationship.

The Effects
The range of problems among children who witness parental violence includes disturbing disorders, such as stuttering, anxiety, fear, sleep disruption, and school problems. Children older than five or six have a tendency to identify with the aggressor and lose respect for the victim. 75% of boys who witness parental abuse have demonstrable behavior problems. The effects go beyond the home and don’t end as the child ages. A comparison of delinquent and non-delinquent youth found that a history of family violence or abuse was the most significant difference between the two groups. Abused children are arrested by the police four times more often than non-abused children. Children who witness abuse of their maternal caretakers are:

  • 24 times more likely to commit sexual assault crimes.
  • 50% more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol.
  • 74% more likely to commit crimes against another person.
  • 6 times more likely to commit suicide


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