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Resources and information for parents.

NEGATIVE IMPACT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN

The effects of domestic violence can be physically and emotionally devastating to children.  Children can be harmed physically when being held by a victim while she/he is being attacked, by objects, if the batterer is throwing things, or children can be hurt when they try to stop the attack or try to protect the victim of the attack.  Some of the emotional reactions to violence include:

    Guilt - Children feel responsible for the violence.  Children tend to see themselves as the "center" of their world and that they are at fault if something bad happens.

    Shame - Even young children know that is wrong to hurt someone through physical violence.  They may be embarrassed by what is happening at home and feel that they cannot talk to anyone about it.

    Fear - Children may be afraid of being hurt or that their parent will be hurt by the violence.

    Anger - Children may be angry at the batterer for his/her violent behavior and/or at the victim for not leaving the relationship as the violence continues.

    Confusion - Children can become confused when the batterer attempts to justify his/her behavior by blaming the victim.

    Depression - Children who live in violent homes are at risk for depression.  They can feel helpless to change the situation.

    Hyper vigilant - Children can become sensitive to loud noises or their senses remain in a state of hyper awareness causing them to seem agitated.

Witnessing or being involved in the violence can negatively impact a child's self esteem.  Children may also attempt to "model" their parent's behavior and become aggressive or violent with their peers.  In addition, children will often express their emotions through their behavior.  They will "act out" in their behavior the emotions they many not understand.  Some of these behaviors are age specific and can include:

  • Babies:  Crying, irritability, eating/sleeping problems.
  • Age 2-4:  Hair pulling, nail biting, headaches, eating/sleeping problems, aggressive behavior.
  • Age 5-10:  Overeating, extreme over or under achiever, developmental delays, aggressive behavior.
  • Age 10-13:  Increased feelings of responsibility for younger siblings, role reversal with victim parent.
  • Age 13 & Up:  Negative behavior like truancy, vandalism, sexual behavior, drug/alcohol use, eating disorders.

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