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Children and Domestic Violence

Leading facts and statistics related to children and domestic violence.

  • Jan 07, 2015
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Children and Domestic Violence


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Children and Domestic Violence
Children and Domestic Violence

Many researchers have concluded that some children who witness or are victims of domestic violence experience a profound and lasting impact on their lives and hopes for the future. “A child’s developing brain can mistakenly encode the violence,” says Children of Domestic Violence, adding that kids can grow up believing that violence is normal and that they are to blame for it. The statistics and studies below reinforce that belief, and that stopping domestic violence long-term and “breaking the cycle of violence” heavily relies on raising children in environments free of violence.

30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. Source: Edelson, J.L. (1999). “The Overlap Between Child Maltreatment and Woman Battering.” Violence Against Women. 5:134-154.

The single best predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence. Studies from various countries support the findings that rates of abuse are higher among women whose husbands were abused as children or who saw their mothers being abused. Source: “Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children.” UNICEF, Child Protection Section and The Body Shop International (2006).

Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. Source: Strauss, Gelles, and Smith, “Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence” in 8,145 Families. Transaction Publishers (1990).

Males exposed to domestic violence as children are more likely to engage in domestic violence as adults, and females are more likely to be victims as adults. Source: Whitfield, C., Anda, R., Dube, S., and Felitti, V. (2003). “Violent childhood experiences and the risk of intimate partner violence as adults.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(12).

Children who were exposed to violence in the home are 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average. Source: Volpe, J.S., “Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Adolescents: An Overview”, The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, 1996.

Compared with children in other households, children who have been exposed to domestic violence often suffer from insomnia and have trouble with bed-wetting. They also are more likely to experience difficulties in school and to score lower on assessments of verbal, motor, and cognitive skills, and are more likely to exhibit aggressive and antisocial behavior, to be depressed and anxious, and to have slower cognitive development. Source: Fantuzzo, J. and Mohr, W. (1999). “Prevalence and effects of child exposure to domestic violence.” The Future of Children, 9(3), 21-32.26. Schechter, S. and Edleson, J.L. (2000). Domestic violence and children: Creating a public response. Center on Crime, Communities and Culture for the Open Society Institute.

Court statistics show that children are present during domestic or intimate partner violence incidents in 36% of cases; of those children who were present, 60% directly witnessed the violence. Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Female Victims of Violence,” September 2009.