Children and young people can experience domestic violence in many ways. Every child’s experience will be different. Children and young people can be witnesses of violence, they may overhear it and they may also experience physical and emotional abuse directly.

This video shows some of the experiences of children and young people


Our experience has shown that children will usually be aware of the violence and can experience it with all their senses. They are often caught up in the dynamics and incidents of abuse. Many will witness the physical and emotional impact on their mothers.

Just as every child’s experience of domestic violence is different, every child will be affected differently. Domestic violence can impact upon all areas of children and young people’s lives, including, health, education, the development of relationships, recreation and social activities. The effects of domestic violence on children are wide ranging and will differ for each child or young person. Effects can include:

  • feelings of fear, shame anger etc.
  • underachieving (or overachieving) in school
  • difficulties sleeping and nightmares
  • distracted behaviour
  • outbursts of temper and aggression
  • regressive behaviour such as thumb sucking, bet wetting etc
  • reluctance to eat
  • complaints of tummy pain or pain in other parts of their body
  • low self esteem and confidence
  • reluctance to engage in social activities, or
  • self harm.

A wealth of research has identified domestic violence as an underlying theme behind social issues such as, school dropout and exclusion, youth homelessness and young people engaging in risk taking behaviour. Children and young people have varying levels of resilience and all agencies that come into contact with children and young people who experience domestic violence have a responsibility to build upon this resilience.

It is important to remember that children can and do can recover from the impact of parental conflict and separation.

All children can benefit from support to help them understand what has happened. All agencies who come into contact with children and young people have a responsibility to put in place safety and support structures which will children to come to terms with and recover from, their experiences and to move forward surrounded by a support framework.

» How you can support your children