are often the unplanned victims of abuse in the home. Children
in violent homes face two kinds of threats. (1) The threat
of witnessing fights between parents, and (2) the threat of
being hurt during fights between parents.
Children of abused persons may:
- Be hurt during a fight (i.e. hit by an object thrown by
- Be scared for their parent and be scared because they
can’t help keep him/her safe
- Blame themselves for not stopping the fight.
- Blame themselves for causing the fight.
- Be abused or uncared-for.
Child Abuse in violent homes
The risk of child abuse is much higher when domestic violence
is also in the home.
- Almost half of men who abuse their female partners also
abuse their children.
- Across the United States, 75% of abused women say their
children are also abused. Another study found that
33% of the families reporting a fight between parents also
reported child abuse in the home.
- Women being abused are less able to care for their children.
Eight times as many women said they use physical discipline
on their children while living with their abuser than
when living alone or in a relationship that was not abusive.
Witnessing parental violence
- Over 3 million children are at risk of seeing fights
between their parents each year.
- Children from abusive families can give doctors and
counselors detailed descriptions of fights their parents
never knew they had seen.
The impact on children
The damage caused by living
in a home where there is a lot of violence betweenparents
is often overlooked. The end result of seeing and hearing
so much violence can cause children to fear for their own
safety, fear for the parents’ safety,
and blame themselves for what happened.
- Children who see their parents fighting may suffer from
stuttering, worry, fear, loss of sleep, and problems
- Children older than 5 or 6 sometimes tend to feel sorry
for the abuser and lose respect for the parent being
Over a longer period of time, children who see and hear violence
in the home may start being more violent themselves. Other
serious emotional and behavioral problems may also develop
in children who repeatedly see and hear violence in the home.
- Violence seen and heard in the home is often repeated
later in life. Fights between parents have been found
in 20-40% of the families with pre-teens and teenagers
who show a lot of violent behaviors. 75% of boys who see
and hear fights between their parents have serious behavioral
- The biggest difference between families of children
who are in trouble a lot with the law and families of children
who are not is a history of family violence.
- Child and adult victims of abuse are more likely to
commit violent acts outside the family than those not abused.
Abused children are arrested by the police 4 times more
often than not-abused children are.
If you are being abused or know someone who is, there are
people who want to help. Call the Virginia Family Violence
and Sexual Assault Hotline any time of the day or night. You
might make a difference in the life a child.
Information for this article was taken from:
Courts and Communities: Confronting Violence in the Family
State Justice Institute Conference
San Francisco, CA: March 25-28, 1993