It is a common psychological fact, that a person’s childhood often shapes them as a human being. Children are sponges, who are constantly observing and learning from the people and world around them. While we, of course, want all our nations’ children to be raised in a safe, loving and growth-enabling home – there are unfortunately many cases of children growing up in a darker situation instead – often seeing or experiencing various forms of domestic violence or neglect.

What are the affects on a child who witnesses and/or experiences domestic violence?

Children exposed to domestic violence will quickly start to lose their child-like, free nature, as they develop major fear and anxiety. They will walk on eggshells, constantly on guard and waiting for the next violent event to occur. They will never be able to feel comfort and safety, as they are unable to understand just what it is that causes these violent outbursts. They will feel powerless as they cannot protect themselves and their family members who are also being affected by the violence.

When living in an abusive household, they most often will have no one to talk to about the abuse which is occurring – sometimes not even to their siblings or other family members. They will start to blame themselves for the abuse and feel ashamed, humiliated and embarrassed. They will begin to feel isolated, vulnerable and starved for attention, affection and approval.

This array of feelings leads to children being generally sad/depressed and battling to sleep. They may also begin to develop headaches, stomach pain, start to bed wet and develop concentration issues. Due to this, they may begin to struggle at school due to lack of concentration and may develop a stunt in speech, motor and cognitive skills. Of course, they may also begin to mimic the violent or aggressive behaviour that they have witnessed as they have not learned emotional management skills in their home.

Whether the children witness abuse or are abused themselves, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma. They have a higher risk of developing alcohol and drug abuse issues, juvenile delinquency and post traumatic stress disorder. They are also more likely to run away from home.

It is important to remember that these children can be helped and recover from the impact the violence had on their psyches and lives. If you witness or suspect cases of domestic violence against children, or in a child’s home, please report it immediately to ChildLine on 0800055555.

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