Domestic Violence
Coordinating Council (DVCC)

Children Resources

How Domestic Violence Affects Children Brochure

Second Hand Abuse Wheel

Children of all ages can be deeply affected by domestic violence

  • Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be in an abusive relationship when they grow up – whether as the abuser or the abused; and often experience anxiety, depression, eating and sleeping disorders and developmental delays and behavior problems.
  • Delaware law recognizes that a child can be a witness to an act of domestic violence by sound as well as sight, acknowledging that a child may have only heard the violent act from another room, but nonetheless be a witness who is emotionally impacted by it. 11 Del. C. 8 § 1102(a)(4)

Infants – may not develop the appropriate attachments to their caretakers who are crucial to their development and may suffer “failure to thrive.”

Preschool Children – may regress developmentally and suffer sleep disturbances including nightmares.

School age Children – develop behavioral problems including: depression, anxiety, violence toward peers and difficulty with authority. In some cases the anxiety level can be so high children are afraid to attend school for fear of what will happen to the abused parent or younger siblings when they are not home.

Adolescents– have increased risk for repeating abusive behavior patterns in their dating relationships.

They are also at increased risk for alcohol and drug abuse, criminal behavior and eventual entry into the criminal justice system.

Adolescents are at risk of academic failure, school drop-out, delinquency, and substance abuse. Some investigators have suggested that a history of family violence or abuse is the most significant difference between delinquent and non delinquent youth.

Children who witness domestic violence may have the following symptoms

  • eating, sleeping disorders;
  • mood related disorders such as depression, emotional neediness;
  • over compliance, clinginess, withdrawal;
  • aggressive acting out; destructive rages;
  • detachment, avoidance, a fantasy family;
  • somatic complaints;
  • finger biting, restlessness, shaking, stuttering;
  • school problems, and
  • suicidal ideations.

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