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How Are Children Affected By Domestic Violence?



All children exposed to domestic violence are affected in one way or another. The symptoms a child exhibits may be flagrant and disrupt their life, or they may be subtle and manifest themselves only in certain situations, but the effects are always present. These influences can manifest themselves in many ways, and this article will only cover a few of them.

Physical Indicators

Some of the more obvious physical manifestations of the effects of domestic violence seen from children are as follows.

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches (including those caused by ulcers)
  • Bed wetting
  • Hair pulling
  • Nail biting
  • Screaming, uncontrolled crying
  • Self-inflicted physical injuries like cuts or bruises
  • Stealing and forms of physical aggression
  • Temper tantrums

There are several reasons for these physical symptoms. In some cases, the child is mimicking what he or she has seen the adults in his or her life do in response to certain situations. In other cases, the child lacks the ability to display emotions such as frustration or impatience in a healthy manner because of a mental or emotional problem.

Mental And Emotional Indicators

Below are some of the mental and emotional symptoms children exposed to domestic violence commonly display.

  • Nightmares
  • Impaired concentration, especially at school
  • Depression and anxiety or phobias
  • Fear of men or men’s voices
  • Fear of being touched
  • Problems with establishing a healthy sleep cycle
  • Problems with establishing healthy eating habits
  • Withdrawal or loss of interest
  • Low self-esteem and self-image

As with physical indicators, mental and emotional symptoms develop for a myriad of reasons. For some kids, internalizing the violence in their lives results in an inability to sleep or eat properly and can develop into clinical depression. For others, achievement becomes the driver to the point of overachievement. That is, some kids feel that if they can do well at everything they do they can prevent the violence in their lives from happening, so they feel as if they cannot fail at anything, for doing so will bring on violence.  Learn more from the book Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Adolescents: An Overview.

If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, help is available. Please contact your local authorities for assistance.