Impact on Children
We can not address domestic violence without understanding its impact on children and youth. All aspects of a child’s life are affected when a child grows up in a violent home. Domestic violence can make children less likely to succeed in school, more likely to suffer and commit violence, and more likely to face a host of health problems that can last throughout their lives.
Current research indicates that domestic violence affects children and youth in a variety of ways and that the effects are both short and long term. Children may be physically, emotionally and cognitively damaged as a result of domestic violence. The nature and extent of harm will vary depending primarily on three factors:
- The type and history of abusive control used by the perpetrator
- The age, gender and development stage of the child
- Situational factors, such as other social supports
*Information from NHCADSV’s Impact on Children page
Parenting After Violence*
In families where children have been exposed to domestic violence, support from the non-offending parent is crucial in the healing process. This can be difficult because as part of the abuse batterers undermine victims’ relationships with their children by abusing and degrading them, often in front of the child.
Impact of Violence
It is important to understand how domestic violence affects families as a whole and how the parenting of the abused parent might be compromised.
- Harm to children is caused by the domestic violence and by the actions of the abuser, not by the mother’s failure to protect. Children are harmed by exposure to trauma, which may be complicated by: directly being abused, by the abuser’s manipulation of children, and by the damage to the mother/child relationship
- Domestic violence compromises the victim’s ability to parent as she wishes and compromises the batterer’s capacity to parent as well
- Conduct by a battered mother that looks like poor parenting may in fact be an effort to protect herself and her children
- Protecting families from domestic violence is the responsibility of society, not battered women
Helping Children Heal
It is important that victims/survivors of domestic violence are supported in their parenting after violence. They need to rebuild their parent child bond, while creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. Some factors that foster resiliency and healing in children who have been exposed to domestic violence include:
- Having a strong caring relationship with adults, including the non-offending parent.
- Relationships in the community (other siblings, family, peers, community groups.)
- Encouraging the child’s interests and abilities, praising their strengths.
- Encouraging participation in positive activities.
- Giving them opportunities to talk about events and express their feelings.
- Keeping them in a safe environment.
*Information from NHCADSV’s Parenting After Violence page
It is important to remember, while some children will come to cope with violence in the home in the ways outlined in the above wheel, each child is different and will develop strategies of their own to cope. For example, a common outcome not shown on the wheel, is pressure on self to excel/”be perfect”, or play the responsible/caregiver role in the family. By addressing trauma, and ensuring children have healthy coping strategies, they are less likely to depend on more harmful survival techniques.