Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in Australia, affecting one in three women at some point in their lifetime. While many people understand the negative impact on women who experience it firsthand, the impact of domestic violence on children is often overlooked.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is any behavior that intends to control or cause harm to another person in a family or intimate relationship. This can take many forms, including physical violence, sexual violence, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse, or social isolation. Domestic violence is not only detrimental to the victim’s physical health and safety but can also have long-term, psychological effects.

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

The effects of domestic violence on children can be long-lasting and damaging. Children living in violent households can suffer immediate physical injuries as well as witnessing the violence towards their parent, which can have a lasting psychological impact.

Physical Effects

The physical effects of domestic violence on children can range from being injured due to being in the crossfire of domestic violence to obtaining permanent brain damage or paralysis, or even death. The physical impact of domestic violence often includes physical injuries that require medical attention, and in severe cases, extended hospitalization.

Psychological Effects

The psychological effects of domestic violence on children can range from behaviour inhibition, low self-esteem, cognitive developmental issues, social and emotional development issues, increased aggression, poor academics and compromised mental health. Many children who experience or witness domestic violence can exhibit fear, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Cognitive Developmental Issues

Children’s cognitive development can also be impacted by sustained exposure to domestic violence. Long-term exposure can result in altered brain development in areas responsible for problem-solving, strategizing, impulse control, and decision-making. This can manifest in poor academic performance, difficulties with concentration, and difficulty in regulating emotion.

Understanding the Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Domestic violence can have a significant and long-lasting impact on children, manifesting in psychological, social, and cognitive domains. Children who witness or experience domestic violence often develop coping mechanisms to survive the ongoing trauma. Such behaviours may include blaming themselves for the domestic violence, emotional numbing, disassociation, or withdrawing from society.

Children who grow up in an abusive home may find it challenging to form and maintain healthy relationships due to their exposure to dysfunction and violence from their family’s internal structure. This can manifest in compromising healthy social bonds, inability to trust others or forming attachement to others.

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Domestic violence is learned and can be passed down from generation to generation. Although certain internal and external factors can make a child more vulnerable to the adverse effects of domestic violence, this does not mean that the child is predestined to become an abuser or a victim of domestic violence. Children growing up with domestic violence in their homes can develop other strategies for coping, such as healthy engagement with peers, attending therapy, or developing resiliency through active listening and positive mentorship.

Breaking the cycle of violence requires a collective and individual effort to engage in preventative measures and securing appropriate support to those who need it in the form of therapy, counseling, and access to refuge. Parents can also model healthy and respectful conflict resolution skills, provide necessary support and care whilst safeguarding against future exposure to violence in the home.


The impact of domestic violence on children is devastating and far-reaching. Children who witness or experience domestic violence are at risk of a range of negative physical, psychological, and cognitive consequences that have the potential to last a lifetime. The ways in which the child develops resilience over time may rely upon the individual’s circumstances, internal and external factors, but ultimately, the community-wide intervention aimed at prevention and providing support to individuals affected by domestic violence is critical in breaking the cycle.


FAQs: Impact Of Domestic Violence On Children

What are the effects of domestic violence on children?

Children who witness domestic violence can suffer long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects. They may develop anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and have difficulty managing their emotions. They may also experience changes in their behavior, such as aggression, poor academic performance, and withdrawal from social activities. In severe cases, they may even become victims of abuse themselves.

What can be done to support children who have experienced domestic violence?

Children who have experienced domestic violence require access to safe and supportive environments where they can begin to heal. Supportive services, such as therapy, counseling, and peer support groups, can help children to manage their trauma and build resilience. It’s also important to involve families and communities in the healing process by providing education and resources on healthy relationships and parenting.

Why is preventing domestic violence crucial for the well-being of children?

Domestic violence is a significant threat to the well-being of children. It not only harms their physical and mental health but also affects their ability to succeed in life. Children who grow up in environments where domestic violence is present are at increased risk of experiencing poverty, substance abuse, and difficulties with relationships. By preventing domestic violence, we can create an environment in which children can thrive and reach their full potential.


1. Edleson, J. L. (1999). The overlap between child maltreatment and woman battering. Violence Against Women, 5(2), 134-154.

2. Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(8), 797-810.

3. Levendosky, A. A., & Graham-Bermann, S. A. (2001). Behavioral observations of parenting in battered women. Journal of Family Psychology, 15(1), 41-49.