What is the impact of Family Violence on children?

The impacts & trauma of family violence on children are complex (even when they can’t see or hear the violence) – it can be ongoing and long-lasting and can affect every aspect of their life. Such as:

Behaviours

They can act out, over-react, be hostile, impulsive, aggressive or defiant. They can also withdraw or dissociate or run away. Drug and alcohol use can be a problem with older children, and juvenile delinquency and adult criminality.

Development

Normal development can be impaired. They can look like they are regressing or acting younger than their age. It can also be a result of the harm to the brain’s development caused by exposure to trauma.

Relationships

They may avoid closeness and push people away or they may have a dire need for attention and affection and try to develop an alternative attachment to a peer or adult. In future relationships they may expect that violence is the norm and accept it without objection. Learning that violence can be a powerful tool to use in interpersonal relationships, and thus replicate the abusive behaviour

Emotions

Children often feel fearful, stressed, depressed, angry, anxious or ashamed. They may experience a constant feeling of insecurity.

Learning

They may not be able to concentrate at school because they are constantly on the lookout for danger. This can be subconscious. Detentions, missed school and frequent changes of schools can also affect learning.

Cognitions

Children may have low self-esteem, and think negatively about themselves or people around them. (For example, they may think, 'everyone hates me'.)

Physical health

A range of illnesses such as headaches, stomach aches, stress reactions (for example rashes or immune system related illnesses) and sleep disturbances (for example nightmares, insomnia or bedwetting) are common or self-harm, PTSD and other types of trauma

Family violence, and its impact on children, also has a significant and long-term economic cost to the Australian community as a result of reduced productivity, welfare receipt, medical costs, unemployment and a range of other factors.