Effects of domestic violence on children

Effects of domestic violence on children

Two thirds of the residents in our refuges are children. They make up some of the most vulnerable children in the country.


The physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children can be severe and long-lasting. Some children may become withdrawn and find it difficult to communicate. Others may blame themselves for the abuse. All children living with abuse are under stress.

That stress may lead to any of the following:

  • Withdrawal
  • Aggression or bullying
  • Tantrums
  • Vandalism
  • Problems in school, truancy, speech problems, difficulties with learning
  • Attention seeking
  • Nightmares or insomnia
  • Bed-wetting
  • Anxiety, depression, fear of abandonment
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Constant colds, headaches, mouth ulcers, asthma, eczema

Many people think that a child who has experienced domestic violence will inevitably become a perpetrator or victim of abuse later in their lives. This is not true. See myths.

Many children do cope with and survive abuse, displaying extraordinary resilience. But witnessing or experiencing domestic violence represents one of the most serious risks to children in our society.

Refuge believes that no child should have to live with violence or fear. We protect the children using our services. We support them to rebuild safer, happier lives.

See our help for children page for ways of supporting children who have witnessed abuse.