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How Are Children Affected By Living in Violent Homes?

Lynn Blinn Pike, Ph.D., former Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri


The single strongest way to predict child abuse is to find out if there is domestic violence in a home. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the rate of child abuse is six to fifteen times higher in families where there is adult domestic violence compared the families where there is no domestic violence. Anytime a parent is involved in domestic violence, the children in the home are affected in both obvious and subtle ways because they anticipate, see, hear, fear, and sense the violence. When a parent is abused, the children often:


  • Feel guilty because they assume they caused it
  • Feel guilty because they did not do enough to protect the abused parent
  • Feel they were part of the family breakup
  • Are abused along with the parent
  • Are neglected while the abused parent deals with personal issues and trauma
  • Have frequent illnesses, such as headaches, ulcers, and stomach problems
  • Have more frequent emotional problems, such as poor self-concept, depression, and eating and sleep disorders


Research has shown that abused women are not necessarily more likely to come from abusive homes themselves. However, male abusers are at least ten times more likely to have seen their fathers beat their mothers while they were growing up compared to non-abusers.

Service providers, friends, community members, teachers, and relatives need to be diligent in watching for signs of emotional and physical abuse in children. In addition to bruises, other signs of child abuse include (a) excessive shyness in girls and excessive aggression in boys, (b) drug use, (c) frequent illnesses, (d) anxiety, and (e) not being able to concentrate. Adults can do the following to lessen the effects of domestic violence on children:


  • Teach and model non-violent methods of conflict resolution
  • Include content about domestic violence in extra-curricular activities and school classes
  • Understand the child abuse laws in their state, including mandatory reporting
  • Be diligent about watching for signs of trauma and abuse
  • Reach out to children and help them express their feelings in healthy and non-violent ways


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Last Updated 10/13/2014