Children learn behavior from their parents. When there is violence in the home, children are at a high risk of repeating those patterns—they grow up to be violent and to accept violence as normal in their relationships.
- Children who witness domestic violence are 4 times more likely to be arrested in the future and 8 times more likely to commit suicide.
- Children may experience any of the following:
- Fear, anger
- Slowed developmental capacities
- Poor school performance, low self esteem
- Difficulty relating to peers
- Running away from home
- Aggressive language and behavior
- Substance abuse
- Parentification, heightened sense of responsibility
Domestic Violence is a form of child abuse. By abusing you, your partner is not being “good to the kids.” Showing attention or affection to the children cannot make up for denying them their right to a safe and happy childhood.
- Although children may experience and respond to domestic violence in a variety of ways, there are particular characteristics and behaviors that children from violent homes may exhibit.
- Common indicators that violence is impacting children include:
- Somatic Complaints - headache, stomach problems, asthma, ulcers, diarrhea
- Sleeping Difficulties - insomnia, sleepwalking, bed wetting, nightmares, and negative behavior around bedtime
- School Problems - erratic attendance, poor performance, school phobia, distractibility, problem behaviors
- Developmental Delays - speech, motor skills, cognitive maturation, social interaction skills
- Pseudo Maturation - child takes on or is given responsibilities beyond appropriate age/developmental state
- Common behaviors for children From violent homes include:
- Role Reversal - Sometimes the children are forced to be responsible for their own care and for the care of their younger siblings because the parents are too preoccupied with their own problems and are unable to perform normal parenting functions. Children’s moral development tends to make them “own” their parents’ violence and pain. Children from physically and emotionally abusive homes basically have their childhood “robbed” from them and they do not get normal experiences for childhood development.
- Aggressive Behaviors - Some children act out aggressively at home and at school. They are acting out the behavior they have learned from their parents. Their anger is directed towards siblings, other children, animals, and adults. In the extreme, these children may be at risk for patricide or matricide—killing the abusing parent. They may be abusive in all of their personal relationships. These children also show their anger by destroying property or vandalizing.
- Running away - Children run away when they feel that there is no hope for them at home. Children who are physically or sexually abused, which can happen in the violent home, are at risk for running away.
- Withdrawn Behavior - Children form violent homes may be afraid to interact with other people outside the home, or they may not know how to interact in a normal way. They may have been told by their parents not to tell anybody about the problems in the home, or they may be afraid that through their interactions, other people will “know.” This “conspiracy of silence” helps to keep the family violence going. Self-Abusive Behavior - Children from abusive homes can become self-destructive. They are at risk for suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, fast and careless driving, breaking the law, problems with authority, and other risky acting out. During adolescence, they may enter violent dating relationships with each party acting out the role they learned in the abusive home.
- Faulty Thinking and Severe Victim Issues - Children from abusive homes seldom have a chance to know what “normal” is. They have a high tolerance for abusive, destructive, and intolerable behavior. They are handicapped at being able to trust others, or to form reliable intimate relationships. Their self-esteem is shattered and they learn to distrust their own feelings. Left untreated and without intervention from outside the family, these children tend to become adults who will partner and parent in the same destructive ways that they have learned from their parents.
If you are concerned that your child or a child you know may be suffering from the effects of domestic violence and don't know how to help, contact us.