Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Source: A Handbook for Health and Social Service Providers and Educators on Children Exposed to Women/Family Violence, Health Canada 1999.
Reprinted with permission Windor-Essex County Health Unit

Woman Abuse Hurts Children Too

Of all Canadian children, it is estimated that 11% to 23% have witnessed some form of violence against their mother in the home (Health Canada, 1999). These children suffer too. Research shoes that there are many psychological, behavioural and social after-effects as well as effects on children’s academic development from experiencing family violence. In homes where women are abused, there is much greater chance for children to be abused.

Aggressive and Non-Compliant Behaviour

  • Emotional and behavioural problems similar to children who are being physically abused
  • Aggressive with siblings, friends and teachers
  • Non-compliant, may be irritable and anger easily
  • May destroy property and get into fights
  • May “act out”

Emotional and Internalizing Problems

  • Emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal and lack of motivation
  • Somatic complaints, including body aches, pains and illness with no medical reason
  • Complaints may be due to tension build up from what they are experiencing at home

Effect on Social and Academic development

  • Difficulty concentrating on school tasks
  • Too sad, anxious and worried to participate in activities at school and/or with friends
  • Tend to use aggressive strategies when problem solving personal problems

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Symptoms often mistaken for attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Symptoms include anxiety, fear, irritability, thoughts and flashbacks about the violence, anger, outburst, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty concentrating
  • Traumatic events are re-experienced (e.g. nightmares)
  • Child avoids situations that remind him/her of the violence

Subtle symptoms

  • Inappropriate attitudes about violence to resolve conflicts
  • Inappropriate attitudes about violence against women
  • Condoning violence in intimate, dating and marital relationships
  • Hypersensitive about problems at home
  • A sense that they are to blame for the violence.