Tuesday, January 29, 2008

DV 101 - Effects on Children

Witnessing domestic violence has a number of negative effects on children, even if they were never physically abused themselves. For a personal account, we encourage you to view this video of actor Patrick Stewart as he discusses his experience with family violence as a child.

The following list of effects is not all-encompassing, nor does it reflect the experience of every child. Some children will suffer many of the effects listed, some a few of them, some none at all, and some will have reactions not listed. However, this list describes the extent of the damage that family violence has on the children who witness it.

  • Feeling guilty about the abuse and believing that the abuse is their fault
  • Feeling guilty for not stopping the abuse
  • Believing that it is their responsibility to protect one parent from the violent acts of the other
  • Grief, depression, embarrassment, resentment
  • Fear of being abused
  • Fear of losing a parent
  • Fear of having to fend for oneself
  • Fear for the safety of siblings
  • Believing that it is their responsibility to keep siblings safe
  • Anger about the chaos in their lives
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless


  • Blaming others for their own behavior
  • Believing that it is acceptable to use abusive behavior in order to control others
  • Low self- esteem
  • Not expressing needs
  • Inability to trust others
  • Rigid stereotypes about gender roles


  • Aggressive and “out of control” behavior
  • Excessive concern about achieving or being “good”
  • Disinterest in school achievement
  • Adopting the role of caretaker for siblings and/or an abused parent
  • Becoming passive and withdrawn
  • Becoming aloof, sarcastic, defensive, or overly sensitive
  • Constantly seeking attention
  • Bedwetting and having nightmares
  • Mimicking the abuser’s behavior


  • Isolating from others
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Poor anger management and problem-solving skills
  • Excessive social involvement (to avoid home life)
  • Passivity with peers or bullying peers
  • Perpetrating violence or tolerating violence in dating relationships
  • Engaging in exceedingly rough play


  • Acting nervous, anxious, or not paying attention (may have a false ADHD diagnosis)
  • Acting lethargic
  • Becoming frequently ill
  • Exhibiting poor personal hygiene
  • Developmental delays
  • Desensitization to physical and/or emotional pain
  • Engaging in high risk behaviors
  • Engaging in self abuse

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