Potential Impact of Living with Violence

Below we are describing the potential impact of living in a home with intimate partner violence. At the same time, it is important to recognize that not all children will experience these issues. With support and resources it is possible to reduce harm and its impact.

Children are affected in a range of ways and not all children are affected equally. What makes a difference?

  • The child’s age and development stage

  • Presence of other risk factors such as poverty, substance abuse, or mental health issues

  • Other supports in the extended family or environment

  • Severity, proximity, duration, and frequency of the abuse

  • The child’s role in the family

  • Characteristics of the child

  • Protective factors that promote resilience (1)


  • Miscarriage rate is higher

  • Less access to prenatal care

  • Health risks to mother and unborn child

Infants and toddlers

  • Developmental delays

  • Propensity to illness, irritability, and sleep problems

  • Potential disruption of attachment and trust

  • Excessive separation anxiety

  • Fear of being alone

  • Regressive behavior

School-age children

  • Attribute the abuse to something they have done

  • Learn strong gender roles associated with abuse, violence, and victimization

  • Anger, aggression, depression, fear, withdrawal, self-destructiveness

  • Challenges in school and academic performance

  • Perfectionist behavior, irrational fear of failure, perceive punishment as love

  • Headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, bed-wetting

  • Excessive clinging


  • Poor social skills

  • Low self-esteem

  • Drug and alcohol use/abuse

  • Running away from home, missing or dropping out of school

  • Challenges with academic performance or the need to be perfect in school

  • Suicidal behavior

  • Criminal behavior

  • Dating abuse

  • Early and risky sexual activity, pregnancy, or early marriage

How abuse might be observed

Children may act fearful of a particular parent and be overly compliant with that parent. One parent might actively try to limit the time the child spends with the other parent, and there may be fear concerning parental contact. People who abuse may talk in a condescending way about the partner, often in front of the child. In addition, both partners may appear detached or emotionally unavailable to their children. Children may respond to the abuse by exhibiting either withdrawal or aggression.


  1. National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Domestic Violence Collaborative Group. (2010). Domestic violence and children: Questions and answers for domestic violence project advocates. Los Angeles, CA, and Durham, NC: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. http://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/domestic_violence_and_children.pdf