The lasting impact of domestic violence on children
The report finds that children who live with domestic violence not only endure the distress of being surrounded by violence, but are more likely to become victims of abuse themselves. An estimated 40 per cent of child-abuse victims also have reported domestic violence in the home.
Even when children are not physically abused themselves, their exposure to domestic violence can have severe and lasting effects. The impact begins early: studies show that younger children are more likely to be exposed to domestic violence than older children, which can impair their mental and emotional growth in a critical stage of development.
As they grow up, children who are exposed to domestic violence continue to face a range of possible effects including trouble with school work, limited social skills, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems. They are at greater risk for substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and delinquent behaviour, according to the report.
The report also finds that the single best predictor of children continuing the cycle of domestic violence – either as perpetrators or as victims – depends on whether or not they grow up in a home with domestic violence. Research shows that rates of abuse are higher among women whose husbands were abused as children or who saw their mothers being abused. Many studies have also found that children from violent homes show signs of more aggressive behaviour, such as bullying, and are up to three times more likely to be involved in fighting.
The report urges governments and societies to pay more attention to the specific needs of children who live in homes impacted by domestic violence. It also identifies the need for better monitoring and reporting on the prevalence of domestic violence in order to shed light on this hidden issue.
Governments have a vital role to play in breaking the cycle of domestic violence and protecting the youngest victims of domestic violence, and are urged to: