Children are often the invisible victims of domestic violence.Living in a home with domestic violence is often very traumatic for children and can lead to a range of serious long term consequences. Children confronted with violence at home suffer physically, emotionally and academically. Without support and intervention children are more likely to fall into a cycle of abuse later in life
The following behaviors can often be seen in children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence.
Infants — Age 3
Physical problems (frequent colds, diarrhea) excessive screaming and irritability problems falling asleep developmental delays (not gaining weight, not eating) anxiety, sadness, crying, emotional withdrawal
Ages 3 — 7
Delayed language development regression to infant-like behavior such as thumb sucking difficulty getting along with others hostility and aggression defiant and destructive behavior clinging behavior fear self-blaming and feelings of guilt
Ages 7 — 13
Low self-esteem conflicted feelings about the abuser increased aggression toward peers, siblings and parents shame (denying the violence at home) delinquent behavior (stealing, fighting, using drugs)
Ages 13 — 18
Patterns of blaming others for his/her behavior, especially parents high levels of anger and anxiety inappropriate belief that violence can be a response to conflict protective behavior toward the victim violence against the victim sense of responsibility for the care of younger siblings running away patterns of truancy substance abuse problems promiscuous behavior
Additional Effects — All Age Groups
Increased emotional needs difficulty adjusting to school school phobias (might fear leaving the victim alone) somatic problems (asthma, peptic ulcers, chronic headaches, abdominal cramps) eating disorders patterns of increased deceptiveness (excessive lying, stealing, cheating) inclination to mutilate or kill animals inability to trust and develop relationships low tolerance for frustration self-destructive behavior, self-mutilation memory of every detail of abuse blames the victim for the abuse, pressures him/her to make things better poor sexual image low self-esteem bed wetting.
* Center Against Domestic Violence