Tuesday, May 21, 2024

4 Ways Family Violence Impacts Children

Domestic abuse is a terrible crime. On top of the physical, emotional, and mental abuse suffered by its victims, domestic abuse also has devastating effects on children who witness it.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the emotional, psychological, behavioral, physical, and long-term impacts that witnessing domestic abuse can have on children.

Emotional and psychological impacts of children witnessing domestic abuse

When children witness abuse at home, they may experience a variety of intense emotions, including fear, anger, irritability, sadness, and confusion. They may also feel guilty, ashamed, or responsible for the violence.

In addition, children who witness domestic abuse may experience anxiety because they are constantly on edge about when the next attack will happen.

Children may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leading them to experience nightmares and difficulty sleeping.

Physical impacts of children witnessing domestic abuse

Seeing a parent suffer domestic abuse can also affect children physically. For example, they may experience frequent headaches and stomach pains from their tense home life. Even worse, they could get caught in the middle of a fight and suffer physical abuse themselves.

Other long-term physical impacts that can be traced back to witnessing physical abuse include a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Behavioral impacts of children witnessing domestic abuse

Children are also more likely to struggle behaviorally after witnessing domestic abuse. For example, boys tend to act out more and become aggressive by getting in trouble with the law, fighting, skipping school, and engaging in risky sexual activities. 

In contrast, girls tend to exhibit more internalizing behavior issues such as social withdrawal and depression. Overall, both boys and girls are more likely to demonstrate anti-social behavior.

Long-term impacts of children witnessing domestic abuse

Unfortunately, children who witness domestic abuse may suffer long-lasting damage well into their adult years. Many struggle with depression, anxiety, and feelings of shame and guilt for long periods.

Worst of all, many children who witness domestic abuse are more likely to become abusers or victims of abuse themselves, partly because the behavior has been normalized. This can lead to generational cycles of domestic abuse that can be difficult to break.

How to protect children from domestic abuse

If you are aware of a child (or children) growing up in a home where domestic abuse occurs, you can help. Try to spare the child further exposure by helping them leave the bad environment. Make their safety a top priority.

In some cases, you may need to call Child Protective Services (CPS) or the police. Intervening can be difficult, but it’s important to do whatever is in the child’s best interest.

You should also try to teach the child what a healthy relationship dynamic looks like. Teach them non-violent ways to resolve conflicts, personal boundaries, and that violence for any reason is never okay.

For legal assistance, recommend that parents or guardians of affected children hire a family law attorney. They will be able to help resolve legal conflicts and fight for the best interests of the child.

Again, domestic abuse is never acceptable and no child should be a victim of it or be required to even witness it. As citizens, it’s our job to protect the innocent in our society. So do your part and report any suspected domestic abuse to the proper authorities. 

Lindsey Ertz
Lindsey Ertz
Lindsey, a curious soul from NY, is a technical, business writer, and journalist. Her passion lies in crafting well-researched, data-driven content that delivers authentic information to global audiences, fostering curiosity and inspiration.

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