Domestic Violence Effects on Children & Families

Information retrieved from American Society for the Positive Care of Children (SPCC). (2017). Child Abuse Statistics in the U.S. Retrieved on December 21, 2017 from

Each year, millions of children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities as both victims and witnesses. Even if they are not physically present, children may be affected by intentional harm done by another (for example, the murder of or an assault on a family member or close neighbor).

Children react to exposure to violence in different ways, and many children chow remarkable resilience. All too often, however, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm. They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems.

They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Moreover, being exposed to violence may impair a child’s capacity for partnering and parenting later in life, continuing the cycle of violence into the next generation.

Domestic violence in families is often hidden from view and devastates its victims physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. It threatens the stability of the family and negatively impacts on all family members, especially the children who learn from it that violence is an acceptable way to cope with stress or problems or to gain control over another person.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)-funded study concluded that a majority of children in the United States have been exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities. The consequences of this problem are significant and widespread. Children’s exposure to violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Children exposed to violence are also at a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life and becoming part of a cycle of violence.

What is Domestic Violence?

The term domestic violence, is often referred to as domestic abuse, battering, or family violence, and more recently as intimate partner violence (IPV). The Justice Department defines domestic violence “as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.”

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Another name for domestic violence, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines intimate partner violence (IPV) as “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. THis type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy. IPV can vary in frequency and severity. It occurs on a continuum, ranging from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic, severe battering.”

Family Violence

Domestic violence is also referred to as family violence. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ (NCJFCJ’s) defines family violence as “the occurrence of one or more of the following acts by a family or household member, but does not include acts of self-defense.”

  • Attempting to cause or causing physical harm to another family of household member.
  • Placing a family or household member in fear of physical harm.
  • Causing a family or household member to engage involuntarily in sexual activity by force, threat of force, or duress.

Domestic Violence – Adult Statistics

In addiction to the immediate impact, intimate partner violence has lifelong consequences. A number of studies have shown that beyond injury and death, victims of IPV are more likely to report a range of negative mental and physical health outcomes that are both acute and chronic in nature.

  • More than 10 million women and men in the United States experience physical violence each year by a current or former intimate partner.
  • Over 1 in 5 women 922.3%) experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Nearly 1 in 7 men (14%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
  • Approximately 9.2% of women and 2.5% of men have been stalked by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Domestic Violence – Child Statistics

Children exposed to violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic disorders; fail or have difficulty in school; and become delinquent and engage in criminal behavior.

  • Sixty percent of American children were exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities.
  • Almost 40 percent of American children were direct victims of 2 or more violent acts, and 1 in 10 were victims of violence 5 or more times.
  • Children are more likely to be exposed to violence and crime than adults.
  • Almost 1 in 10 American children saw one family member assault another family member, and more than 25 percent had been exposed to family violence during their lifetime.
  • A child’s exposure to one type of violence increases the likelihood that the child will be exposed to other types of violence and exposed multiple times.

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