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Children and IPV

Children and domestic violenceEach year, 1 in 15 children in the United States is exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV). Even worse, domestic violence is among the leading causes of homelessness in children. These troubling statistics are only a few of many that speak the profoundly damaging effects of domestic violence on children. In Allegheny County alone, over 3,000 children were found to be experiencing homelessness between 2014 and 2015. Without a proper home and safe environment, children are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to become involved in abusive relationships as they grow older. It’s time to stop the cycle of abuse and help child witnesses of intimate partner violence live in a world free from fear and abuse.

Examining the Negative Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

The negative impact of domestic abuse on children extends far beyond the risk of homelessness, spreading into virtually every aspect of their lives. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence are more likely to experience a range of difficulties in their emotional and behavioral growth, even years after the abuse has ended.

Behavioral, Social, and Emotional Problems

A child exposed to an abusive relationship, through a parent or family member, is more likely to withdraw from their peers and face multiple issues interacting with the rest of society. These children may also exhibit:
  • Aggressive, hostile, and oppositional behavior
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Fear and withdrawal
  • Low self-esteem
  • Complications with processing negative emotions
  • Depression and a sense of hopelessness

Developmental and Attitudinal Problems

Exposure to the various types of abuse common among intimate partner violence also stunts the mental growth of children. Many children witnesses of domestic abuse may experience:
  • Slower cognitive development
  • Lack of conflict resolution skills
  • Pro-violence attitudes
  • Belief in male privilege
  • Disregard for rules and authority
  • Little to no interest in academics and future education

Long-Term Problems

Children of abuse are more likely to emulate the unhealthy behaviors they experienced growing up. As adults, they are more likely to enter into abusive relationships, face legal troubles and continue to suffer from mental and emotional complications. Other long-term problems for children of abuse include:
  • Inability to maintain healthy personal and professional relationships
  • Difficulty connecting with others and forming new relationships
  • Boys being more likely to become abusers as adults, and girls being more likely to become victims
  • Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder

Other Factors that Put Children at Risk of Domestic Violence

No two children will react the same to domestic abuse. Some children demonstrate resiliency, while others develop more obvious outward signs of turmoil and distress. Regardless of the reaction, all children exposed to intimate partner violence are at a greater risk of developing unhealthy behaviors as a result. Factors that influence the impact of domestic violence on children may include the following:
  • Severity of the violence
  • Age of the child (younger children usually exhibit more emotional and psychological distress)
  • Elapsed time since exposure (fewer effects are seen as time passes)
  • Gender (in general, boys tend to act out and girls tend to withdraw)
  • Direct abuse of the child

Correcting the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

On an average day in 2015, domestic violence programs in Pennsylvania served 878 children. However, there are countless more who are unable to receive the care, attention and help that they need to grow into strong, healthy adults. At Women’s Center & Shelter, we strive to offer the highest quality care and services to all children who have experienced of domestic abuse. An assessment of a child's experiences and trauma symptoms allows us to work with parents to provide the right programs and support to counteract the negative effects of intimate partner violence. We also provide Emergency Shelter for women and children, along with Legal Advocacy and Support Groups. Call our 24-Hour Hotline at 412-687-8005 ext. 1, or toll free at 877-338-TALK (8255) for help or more information.