Effects on Children

DAP First Call

612.874.7063 | 10AM-4PM Monday-Friday


All children are affected by violence.  The effects may be different in each child because of the way children:

  • Decode and interpret different experiences
  • Have learned to cope and survive with stress
  • Use support people, like teachers and grandparents
  • Personal characteristics such as age, gender, temperament, etc.


Emotional Effects

  • guilt – feel responsible for the violence
  • shame – doesn’t happen anywhere else
  • fear of expressing feelings (anger), of divorce or separation, of the unknown, of injury, of a hostile world
  • confusion – conflicted loyalties (love/hate)
  • anger – about violence, chaos
  • depression/helplessness/powerlessness – to change things (especially children who take on the role of caretaker)
  • grief – of losses
  • burdened – inappropriate roles as caretakers, parents, fixers, etc.


Behaviorial Effects

  • act out vs. withdraw
  • overachiever vs underachiever
  • refuses to go to school
  • caretaking
  • aggressive/bullying or passive
  • rigid defenses – aloof, sarcastic, blaming, defensive
  • seeking attention in behaviors
  • bedwetting and nightmares


Physical Effects

  • somatic complaints (headaches, stomachaches, asthma, etc.)
  • nervous, anxious – short attention span
  • tired, lethargic – seems lazy
  • often sick with colds, flu, etc.
  • neglect personal hygiene
  • regression in developmental tasks
  • no reaction, at times, to physical pain


Social Effects

  • isolated – no friends, or distance in relationships
  • relationships with friends may start intensely and end abruptly
  • difficulty trusting others
  • poor conflict resolution skills
  • may be excessively socially involved (overcompensates by staying away from home)


Cognitive Effects

  • feel responsible for violence
  • blame others for their behavior (to not act responsibly)
  • feel that it is OK to hit others for whom they care in order to get what you want or express anger
  • feel powerless
  • low self-concept and self-worth
  • don’t ask for what they need
  • don’t trust
  • feel anger is bad – people get hurt
  • learn more strict gender roles (being a boy/man means…being a girl/woman means…)


Ways to Help Your Child Heal From the Effects of Domestic Violence

Note: None of the below matters if the violence doesn’t stop.  Once the violence stops, then the healing can begin.

  • bring real safety to the home
  • consider DAP’s Youth Program
  • love unconditionally (separate child from behavior)
  • tell them often how great they are
  • admit to your child when you’ve made a mistake
  • think before you act and before you speak (words hurt too)
  • keep grown up stuff for the grown ups
  • use non physical forms of discipline
  • talk to your kids (kids are smart)
  • be a good role model (they are watching!)
  • treat children as people, not property
  • know what is “normal” for a child developmentally
  • don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep
  • uphold the right to being a child any way you can!