How does family violence affect children?

The scourge of family violence is front and centre on the news each night and in the conscience of our society. Family violence is a serious social issue that affects everyone in a family – children, parents and other members of the extended family.

Extensive research confirms the devastating impact family violence can have on children’s lives and their physical and emotional development, even if they’re not experiencing the violence first-hand. Living in a tense or frightening environment and ‘walking on eggshells’ may cause children to feel the same fear, intimidation and threat to their safety as those that are the direct victims of violence.

What are some examples of family violence?

You may know that physical assault is an example of family violence, but did you know about these lesser known examples?

• Preventing access to medical care
• Destruction of property
• Denying access to money or essential items
• Making comments that are intimidating or humiliating
• Threats to harm pets

What impact does family violence have on children?

A child’s overall wellbeing can be impacted by family violence. You may recognise some of the signs that your child is not coping so you can take steps to provide support.

A child’s wellbeing might be impacted in the following areas:

• Behavioural difficulties, such as running away from home or self-harming.
• Emotional problems, such as having nightmares or becoming withdrawn.
• Social problems, such as bullying others or being bullied.
• Developmental difficulties, such as regressive behaviours like bed-wetting or thumb-sucking.
• Educational problems, such as changes in behaviour and concentration at school.
• Physical illnesses, such as unexplained head or tummy aches, asthma or stuttering.

What are the long-term effects of family violence on a child?

Some of the long-term effects of growing up in an abusive home include:

• Learning to solve problems using violence
• Developing emotional problems such as anxiety and depression
• Loss of trust in adults, impairing their adult relationships
• An increased risk of mental illness or self-harm in later life
• An increased risk of substance abuse

How to get help
It’s never too late to seek help. If you are concerned about your own child or any child that is affected by family violence, it’s important to know that help is available.

Centacare offers a safe and supportive space for those impacted by domestic and family violence. Visit domestic and family violence counselling to find out more.

In an emergency, call the Ambulance or Police on 000.