Five Ways Domestic Violence Affects Children

Domestic violence not only affects the immediate victims but can also leave a profound impact on those who witness it, especially children. Every year, between three and ten million children witness domestic violence between their parents or caregivers. While they may not be the ones directly subjected to physical or verbal abuse, the emotional and psychological toll on children in homes plagued by domestic violence can be devastating and have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences.

  1. Emotional trauma – Children who witness violence in the home are constantly exposed to fear, stress, and anxiety. Witnessing violence between parents or caregivers can evoke a range of intense emotions like fear, helplessness, and confusion. These emotions can severely disrupt the child’s emotional development, leading to issues like depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And since their brains aren’t fully developed yet, the inability to express or understand these emotions can lead them to have difficulty cultivating healthy relationships in the future.
  1. Behavioral problems – Children living with domestic violence often exhibit behavioral problems both at home and in other social settings. These may include aggression, defiance, withdrawal, or difficulty concentrating in school. Such behavioral issues can stem from a combination of factors including the stress of living in a volatile environment, modeling the aggressive behavior they witness, or attempting to cope with overwhelming emotions in unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, these behavioral problems can persist into adolescence and adulthood if not addressed early on.
  1. Impact on relationships – Witnessing domestic violence can significantly shape a child’s understanding of conflict resolution and how relationships work. Children may come to believe that violence and aggression are normal aspects of intimate relationships, which only perpetuates the cycle of abuse in their own lives. They may also have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships, and they may fear intimacy and/or struggle with trust issues. Without intervention and support, these patterns can persist into adulthood, affecting the ability to build fulfilling relationships in the future.
  1. Physical health consequences – The effects of domestic violence on children aren’t confined to their emotional and psychological well-being. Being exposed to domestic violence can also have serious implications for their physical health. The constant stress and anxiety experienced in such environments can weaken the immune system, making children more susceptible to illnesses. Additionally, children may suffer from psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or other stress-related ailments. Exposure to violence also increases the risk of engaging in risky behaviors like substance abuse, which can further compromise health.
  1. Educational challenges – The trauma of witnessing domestic violence can interfere with a child’s ability to focus and succeed academically. Constantly worrying about the safety of themselves or their parents, dealing with emotional distress, or facing disruptions in their home life can all hinder their academic performance. As a result, children from homes affected by domestic violence are more likely to have lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, and are at increased risk of dropping out of school altogether. These educational challenges can have long-term consequences, limiting their future opportunities.

It is imperative that we recognize and address the needs of children who witness domestic violence and provide them with the support, resources, and intervention necessary for them to be able to heal and break free from the cycle of violence. By prioritizing the well-being of children in homes affected by domestic violence, we can work toward a safer and healthier future for generations to come.


The Greene County Family Justice Center is a non-profit collaborative of local agencies offering comprehensive services to survivors of domestic, sexual, and family violence. Our services are trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and we welcome survivors at any point in their process. We partner with local non-profit service providers as well as local law enforcement, the Prosecutor’s office, and Children’s Division to make victim services more accessible and completely voluntary. If you do not want to participate in the criminal justice process, we support you.

Our vision is a future where we all work together to meet the needs of domestic violence and human trafficking survivors through comprehensive and accessible services, education, and perpetrator accountability. Through a coordinated framework and co-located response, we strive to break the vicious generational cycle and community impact of domestic violence and resulting victimizations.

We can help you plan for your safety whether you plan to stay in the relationship, or you are actively trying to escape. All our services are free, confidential and survivor centered. Have questions about what services are available? Visit us at 1418 E. Pythian Street or give us a call at 417-874-2600. We are open 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. For after-hours assistance, call the Harmony House/Victim Center’s 24-hour safe line at 417-864-SAFE (7233). If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.