How Does Domestic Violence Affect Children’s Mental Health?

Last Update on July 22, 2022 : Published on July 24, 2022

Domestic violence cases are increasing day by day. In fact, during the last two years, some states have recorded the maximum number of domestic violence complaints. We always talk about the victim or abuser in a domestic violence case but not many people talk about children who witness domestic violence while growing up.

Have you ever wondered how domestic violence affects children’s mental health? Imagine having to witness all that hate and violence in their growing years. I am sure witnessing domestic violence does not do any good to anyone, leave alone children.

It’s gut-wrenching to even hear someone cry for help or in pain caused by violence. Imagine how the child feels seeing domestic violence every day and not being able to do anything. It’s unfair for anyone to be dealing with such intense emotions and feelings.

Today, we will talk about how domestic violence impacts the child mentally and physically.


What is domestic violence according to you?

In my understanding, any act of violence that happens to one of the partners by the other one in a marriage or otherwise is domestic violence. Now, according to the law, domestic violence is only about physical violence but I think it should also cover emotional and sexual violence that takes place behind closed doors.

Children are observers, they observe and learn. When a child witnesses domestic violence at home, you never know what is that child observing, the victim’s plight or the abuser’s power? Children learn from what they see and domestic violence is going to mess with their minds.

Anyway, let’s look at what domestic violence does to a child

1.Domestic Violence Normalizes Unhealthy Relationships

When a child witnesses domestic violence there are a lot of things that go on in that tiny human’s mind. They are seeing one parent being bashed and the one doing those ungodly things. That is going to mess with their mind. They are young and new to this world, they do not know whether this dynamic between their parents is healthy or not.

It gives them the idea that it’s okay for one partner to oppress the other. And let me tell you, the child is taking that from both parents. The one who is abusing is letting the child believe that it’s okay to hit someone and the one who is a victim, by not taking a stand for themselves is letting the child believe that it’s all normal. Therefore, these disturbed dynamics of the family make the child think that unhealthy relationships are normal.

2.Growing us with feelings of guilt and hopelessness

It is unfortunate that someone has to go through all that when parents engage in domestic violence. Children can’t really comprehend what’s happening in their family. Domestic violence deeply impacts the child’s mental health.

The child wants to help the parent who is the victim but doesn’t really know how. They know they should stop this act of violence but can’t find a way to do so. In many cases when children try to stop the abuser they end up facing violence too. The inability to protect the victim from the abuser makes the child develop intense feelings of guilt and hopelessness which can invite various mental health conditions.


3.Domestic violence impacts the mental health of children

When a child witnesses violence so closely, they are going to be submerged under that huge wave of emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It can all be very overwhelming and to think that a child can handle all that is happening is just bizarre.
Here’s how domestic violence affects a child’s mental health;

  • Instills the feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, etc
  • Aggravates and internalizes anger
  • Increases chances of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Aids to developing mental health conditions like depression
  • Increase in sleep-related issues
  • Experience nightmares
  • Separation anxiety or generalized anxiety
  • Increased aggression towards others

4.Domestic violence affects children’s development

The developmental stage of any child is very, very important. They are forming their beliefs and values system at that time. Witnessing domestic violence during their developing age can really push them off rails.
They may develop personality disorders, developmental disorders, cognitive disorders, and whatnot. They may become susceptible to peer pressure, engage in substance abuse to numb their pain or become an abuser themselves.

How Can You Protect Children From The Impact Of Witnessing Domestic Violence?

First things first, the victim needs help, when the victim is rescued the children have to be rescued too. We all need to understand that children who witness domestic violence experience trauma too. Getting the children some professional help is the best way to help them.

If you are a victim and don’t know how to save yourself and your child, here’s what you can do;

  • Make sure your child knows the emergency numbers like 911
  • Give them a list of names with phone numbers and addresses of people you trust so that they can use them in times of emergency
  • Find some safe spaces in the house where they can hide
  • Decide some signs, safe words, or gestures as cues so that the child knows when to call for help

Also read: 5 Best Online Domestic Violence Support Groups

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about how domestic violence affects the child’s mental health helpful and informative. If you know someone who has dealt with domestic violence do share this blog with them so that they know what their child has been through.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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