Children Witnessing Violence

Children living in homes experiencing domestic violence will be undeniably affected. Just as healthy homes produce healthy children, stressful homes produce children experiencing and manifesting various forms of stress.

Exposure to an abusive environment will produce some common long-term effects in children although each child will be uniquely affected. The following material adapted from the Family Violence Law Center and the Peel Committee Against Woman Abuse outlines several factors determining the impact of violence on a child and the assorted symptoms that may indicate violence in the home.


  • Their understanding of the experience (influenced by their age).
  • How they have learned to survive and cope with the stress created by domestic abuse.
  • Their personality.
  • Additional stresses in their life.
  • The availability of support through friends, relatives, and adults in their life.
  • Their ability to accept support and assistance from adults.
  • Effective intervention.


Emotional: Children from violent homes may…

  • feel guilty for the abuse and for not stopping it.
  • have conflicting feelings toward the parents.
  • experience fear of abandonment, the unknown, or of personal injury.
  • feel angry about the violence and chaos in their lives.
  • become depressed, feeling helpless and powerless (signs of low self-esteem).

Perceptual: Children from violent homes may…

  • believe that they, the child, are responsible for the violence.
  • blame others for their own behaviour
  • believe that it is acceptable to hit people to get what they want, to express anger, to feel powerful, or to get others to meet their needs.
  • not trust others.

Behavioural: Children from violent homes may…

  • have difficulty concentrating.
  • be clingy.
  • become exceptionally aggressive or passive.
  • destroy property or be cruel to animals.
  • experience eating and sleeping disruptions.
  • run away from home.
  • be suicidal.
  • participate in alcohol or drug use.

Social: Children from violent homes may…

  • be isolated from friends and relatives.
  • have poor conflict resolution and anger management skills.
  • become excessively involved in social activities (to avoid home life).
  • engage in exploitative relationships either as a perpetrator or victim.

Physical: Children from violent homes may…

  • complain about headaches, stomachaches, etc. (frequent illnesses).
  • seem anxious and have a short attention span (may be misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
  • be tired or lethargic.
  • seem desensitized to pain.
  • abuse or mutilate themselves.
KCWA Family & Social Services
27 Madison Ave. Toronto, ON M5R 2S2
Tel) 416.340.1234 Fax) 416.340.8114
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