The effects of domestic abuse on children

Domestic abuse and violence affects every member of the family, including the children.  Children who are exposed to domestic abuse and violence may be affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused. They are often unable to establish nurturing bonds with either parent. Children are often at greater risk for abuse and neglect if they live in a violent abusive home. Those who see and hear abuse and violence in the home may suffer physically, developmentally, psychologically, cognitively, and emotionally.

Emotional Effects

Low self-esteem
Conflicted loyalties
Difficulty trusting
Feeling of responsibility

Behavioural Effects

Cries a lot
Poor impulse control
Regressive behaviour
Acting out violently
Difficulty in school
Role of peacemaker
Running away
Drug and alcohol use
Taking the blame
Abusive or accepting of abuse

Physical Effects

Eating disturbances
Sleeping disturbances
Developmental delays
Stress related illness
Physical injuries

Social Effects

Difficulty trusting
Problems relating to other children
Social isolation
Distorted social boundaries
School problems
Embarrassed about family
Experience confusion about gender roles

Cognitive Effects

Developmental delays
Learning delays
Experience unclear and inconsistent boundaries
Learn to blame others from one’s own actions
Learn to equate love with abuse
Learn disrespect
Learn that perpetrating abuse is a
way to get what you want

Myths and Facts about Domestic Violence, Aggression and Children

Myth - Children younger than 18 months are too young to be affected by domestic abuse / violence.

Fact - Research has shown that age is not a factor in experiencing the negative effects of domestic abuse / violence. In fact, research has shown that abuse and violence against the mother during pregnancy can have significant negative impacts on the foetus and after the child is born.

Myth - Because the violence and abuse never happened in front of the children, they’ll be fine.

Fact - Research shows that children experience the abuse and violence directly and second-hand by hearing it, seeing the aftermath, and feeling the lasting emotional and psychological trauma on the abused parent and in the household at large. Children can heal from these experiences but they need specific support from caring adults.

Myth - My partner abuses me, but he’s great dad to the children.

Fact - Abuse and violence does not translate into a positive  parent / child  relationship. The negative effects of these behaviours outweigh any other attempts at healthy parenting.  When one parent disrespects, undermines, threatens, or otherwise harms the other, there can be lasting harm to the children’s perception of  relationships and family values and their own self worth. And when a child spends time with the abuser, it is not necessarily because there is a positive attachment, but rather it could be out of fear and guilt.

Myth - My child is doing fine; doing well in school, helps me around the house all the time, and is never in any trouble. Obviously, there is no ill effect from the abuse against me.

Fact - Children respond to experiences of abuse in many different ways. Their schoolwork can suffer significantly and they can become very despondent and unresponsive. They also can respond by overachieving at school and being extraordinarily helpful and agreeable. Often children will think of school as a safe, positive place and they will "be good" at home to keep the peace there.

Myth - My sons have always been aggressive! Boys will be boys!

Fact - Aggression cannot be linked to one simple origin, because we do know that many varying factors go into creating aggression in human beings. Aggression can, however, be learned. If cultural, social and other factors contribute heavily to a boy’s normalised experience of violence and aggression, he will, indeed, be one of the boys assumed in this myth. In other words, if the culture boys are brought up in is aggressive, teaches aggression, and is steeped in a culture of violence, then those boys may grow up being aggressive. But if boys are taught, from the earliest age, that violence is not acceptable, that respect, trust, love and empathy are healthy attitudes and behaviours, then boys will, more than likely, grow up to be healthy, respectful, nonviolent men.

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