Effects on Children:

Those who live with domestic abuse

Domestic violence may be kept from relatives, neighbors, clergy, or others but children living with violence know what is happening. A home that is characterized by physical, emotional, sexual or property abuse is frightening, debilitating, and an unhealthy place. Children who live with such a home are unable to be children. Psychologist Ruth Olsen says all children are affected. The signs may be different based on how children interpret the experience of witnessing the violence. Some factors that may determine how children will be affected are: how they have learned to cope and survive with the stress of living in a violent home; to what extent do they have support and to what extent do they use supports (i.e. friends, relatives or other adults). Each of these factors influences how deeply the violence will affect children.

Children may have all or some of these feelings:

  • Guilt – feeling responsible for the violence
  • Shame – something’s wrong with my family
  • Fear – expressing feelings, of divorce or separation of the unknown, of injury
  • Anger – about the violence or chaos in their lives
  • Depressed/Helpless/Powerless – unable to change things
  • Burdened – may feel like a substitute parent or caretaker of the family

Children may express these feelings by acting in all or some of the following ways:

  • May act out against others or they may withdraw from others
  • May become overachievers, acting like small adults
  • May have difficulty paying attention and concentrating
  • May become caretakers worried about the needs of others more than themselves
  • May be too aggressive or too passive
  • May have sleeplessness, fears of going to sleep, nightmares, or dreams of danger
  • May experience bed-wetting, eating problems, or medical problems such as asthma or ulcers
  • May be without friends or friendships may start intensely then end abruptly
  • May be excessively social in an attempt to stay away from home
  • May be passive with others or may seek power as a bully or aggressor
  • May blame others for their behavior
  • May not ask for what they need
  • May think that feeling angry is bad because people get hurt
  • May define the roles of man/woman/parent according to what they see in their own family
  • May have a low self-concept or self-esteem

This information is courtesy of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.