How Intimate Partner Violence Affects Children
From 2001 to 2005, 38% of households with a female IPV victim included children under age 12, as did 21% of households with a male victim.39
Studies find a 30% – 60% overlap between child maltreatment and IPV.40
Over the course of their lives, 57% of youth who witnessed violence between parents or other adult caregivers had also been abused or maltreated in some way, compared with 11% of those who had not witnessed violence. Among children who witnessed partner violence,
- 40% had been maltreated within the past year.
- 31% had been physically abused.
- 38% had been psychologically abused.41
Looking at the overlap from the reverse perspective, youth who had witnessed partner violence at home constituted high percentages of those who experienced some other form of abuse. Child witnesses to partner violence were:
- 72% of those who had experienced custodial interference.
- 70% of those who had been sexually abused by a known adult.
- 63% of those who had been neglected.
- 56% of those who had been physically abused.
- 50% of those who had been psychologically abused.42
Children exposed to IPV experience problems like those of children who have been abused.
- Some experience trauma-related anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
- Others engage in fighting, bullying, lying, cheating, and disobedience.
- They are more likely than other children to have difficulty in relationships with others, and poor school performance.
- They learn attitudes leading to violent behavior, and are more likely to engage in violence in the community.43
- Pre-school children suffered more often from bed-wetting, nightmares, post-traumatic stress symptoms, allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, headaches and flu.44
- Adolescents were more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs or alcohol, run away from home, engage in delinquent behavior or prostitution, and commit sexual assault crimes.45
An abusive man’s relationship to a child affects the child’s well-being directly, not just by way of its negative impact on the mother.46
Violence by a father or stepfather against the mother had a greater impact on a child than violence by a partner of the mother who played a minimal role in the child’s life.47
The effects of IPV may be buffered by the presence of protective adults within the family and outside it, especially the child’s mother, and by the child’s own ways of coping.48
- Catalano et al, (2009). op.cit.
- Hamby, S., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R. (2010). The overlap of witnessing partner violence with child maltreatment and other victimizations in a nationally representative survey of Youth. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34, 734-741.
- Edelson, J.L. (2006). Emerging Responses to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence(Summarizes many years of research.), VAWNET, National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women.
- Graham-Bermann, S.A. & Seng, J. (2005). Violence exposure and traumatic stress symptoms as additional predictors of health problems in high-risk children. Journal of Pediatrics. 146(3):309-10.
- Research summarized in Wolfe, D.A. et al. (1995). Strategies to address violence in the lives of high risk youth. In Peled, E., Jaffe, P.G., & Edleson, J.L., (Eds.) Ending the Cycle of Violence: Community Responses to Children of Battered Women. New York: Sage Publications.
Sullivan, C.M., et al (2000). How children's adjustment is affected by their relationships to their mothers' abusers. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15 (6), 587-602, summarizing research that largely looks at how the impact of domestic violence on the mother’s mental health affects the children.
J.L., (2006). Op.cit.