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Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
When most people think of domestic violence, they generally picture a man hitting or otherwise physically harming his wife and/or children. Although this is the scenario in many cases, it is by no means the only scenario. In some cases the mother figure or an older child is the aggressor. Sometimes the partner is the victim, sometimes it is one or more of the children, and sometimes everyone in the house is afraid. Domestic violence isnít just physical either; it can be emotional and psychological. Whatever the circumstances are, one thing is very clear: abuse of any kind has a detrimental effect on the children in the family, even if they are not direct targets of the abuse.
There are several signs and effects of domestic violence that are evident in children. Sometimes there are physical signs, like odd bruises or other marks, but a lot of the time there are no readily visible outward signs of abuse. The most profound signs and effects may be psychological and emotional. Much like a soldier who has come back from a bloody war, domestic violence can have long lasting effects on children.
Like soldiers returning from war, children who are surviving or have survived domestic violence often have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The world first became acquainted with this disorder when soldiers from the conflict in Vietnam starting showing up back home and were unable to integrate themselves properly back into society. According to the literature, PTSD occurs when a person is exposed to severe and extreme violence that is uncontrollable. The personís sense of well-being is shattered. The result is that a person starts feeling emotions like shock, guilt, terror, anxiety, hostility and depression without any stimulation other than the PTSD. Victims of PTSD often have difficulty concentrating; they keep thinking about the traumatic event to the exclusion of all other thing in their lives. They often have trouble sleeping, problems interacting with other people, difficulty emotionally connecting with other people and will often have a substance abuse problem.
For younger children, the effects of domestic violence can be even more severe. Younger children often think that they have done something wrong to cause the abuse. They do not understand what they are seeing, so they put it in a context that they understand, namely that they are being punished for something that they did wrong. Symptoms include problems talking, sleeping, and eating. Younger children who are exposed to domestic violence will often avoid interacting with other children, throw temper tantrums, and will sometimes act violently towards other children and sometimes adults.
As for older children and adolescents, if there is domestic violence in their homes, they are more likely to get poor marks in school. They tend to drop out of school in higher numbers and they are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. Indeed, when there is violence in the home, the child has a much higher risk of becoming a delinquent, getting in trouble with the law for stealing or for getting into fights. What is even sadder is that many people who grow up in violent homes end up in abusive relationships when they are adults.
The effects of domestic violence on children are numerous. The child does not have to be the target of the abuse to have these problems. Indeed, living in a house where other people are being abused but you are not can create even more feelings of anger, rage, and guilt. Parents often think that they are protecting their children from any abuse that is occurring, but they are usually fooling themselves. Children are very perceptive and know when things are wrong.