Understanding the Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Written by Resilience Intern, Dani L.

While the term “domestic violence” is commonly used in society, not everyone fully understands what it is. According to the Department of Justice, domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior within a relationship, used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other. This abuse can occur in various forms, including spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, financial, technological, or psychological.

In the United States alone, more than 15 million children live in households that have experienced at least one instance of domestic violence. These children may witness the violence physically or hear it occurring in another room. Regardless of the extent of their exposure, children who witness domestic violence can face severe mental and physical health challenges. They are also at an increased risk of experiencing domestic violence later in life, making early intervention of the utmost importance.

The Impact on Children:

Children who witness domestic violence can suffer from difficulties similar to those experienced by victims themselves. Moreover, exposure to domestic violence can disrupt a child’s access to consistent support and stability, both within and outside the home. The abusive behavior of a parent can hinder their ability to effectively parent and support their child, leading to an increased likelihood of child neglect. This, in turn, can impede the child’s ability to process and heal from their trauma. As a result, children often struggle in school, exhibiting lower test scores and reduced college attendance rates.

Furthermore, children who witness domestic violence are more likely to display behavioral problems and act out rather than seek help or discuss their experiences.

Supporting Children’s Healing:

The question arises: How can we support these children in their healing journeys? A crucial first step is providing a safe space for children to share their stories. Therapy is not only for those directly experiencing domestic violence but is also essential for children who have witnessed it. Specifically, therapeutic interventions like Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) can significantly aid in their healing process.

Children do not process their feelings and experiences in the same way as adults. They deserve a safe environment to talk about and explore their emotions regarding these events and experiences.

Learn more:

Therapy and specific therapeutic interventions like TF-CBT can be instrumental in helping these children heal and break the cycle of violence. To learn more about how therapy can benefit children who have witnessed domestic violence, we invite you to attend our upcoming webinar on therapeutic interventions tailored to their unique needs.

Find more information about the training here.

Find details about our other upcoming trainings at www.ResilienceMI.org/training 



Women’s Health: Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Department of Justice: Domestic Violence

Domestic Shelters: Does PTSD Look Different in Adults and Children?

NPR: How Domestic Violence in One Home Affects Every Child in a Class