Domestic violence has significant long-term effects on not only adult victims but also on the children who witness violence. Children and youth who are exposed to violence experience emotional, physical, and social damage that can affect their developmental growth and sense of stability.

Children react to witnessing violence differently at different stages as a way of protecting themselves. For pre-schoolers, they may revert to habits of younger children like bed-wetting or thumb-sucking. Teens, may skip school, start fights and become bullies, use drugs, and alcohol, and engage in risky and aggressive behaviours.

The long-term effects are more concerning. Children and youth remain on edge and experience anxiety, feelings of guilt, powerlessness, shame, and develop self-esteem issues. Violence can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause changes to the brain and to the nervous system. This contributes to sleep disorders, irritability, anger, and difficulty concentrating. As children grow up, they may become depressed adults, with added health problems such as diabetes and obesity. There is also a high risk for adults to repeat abusive patterns in their own intimate relationships. 

It is possible for children to recover from witnessing violence in their homes. Although they may never forget, they can learn healthy ways to manage their emotions. We can also protect our children by making safety a priority and by providing victims with the necessary support to leave an abusive environment. Teach children healthy relationship dynamics and educate them about boundaries to prevent the cycle of domestic violence. 


Edwards, Blake G. (February 2019). Alarming Effects of Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence. Psychology Today. Retrieved from  

Ferrara, P; Franceschini, G; Corsello, G et al. (May 2021). Children Witnessing Domestic and Family Violence: A Widespread Occurrence during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. The Journal of Pediatrics V.235, P305-306. DOI: 

Office of Women’s Health. (February 2021). Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from 

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence and Children. Retrieved from 

Written by:

Giselle Jordana Baker
Wellness and Health Counselor

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