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AWARE Campaign: Domestic Abuse

How does domestic abuse affect children?

If you have been experiencing domestic abuse you will probably have tried to protect your child(ren) from it as much as you can. However in many families where there is domestic abuse going on, the children are aware of it, even if they do not show it or talk to you about it.

For children witnessing or hearing one of their parents being abusive or violent towards the other, it can be a very distressing, painful and damaging experience which can have long lasting effects.

An estimated 140,000 children in the UK live in households with high-risk domestic abuse; that is, where there is a significant risk of harm or death.

Living in an abusive home will affect children differently, dependent on age, race, sexuality, culture, stage of development, and their individual personality. Your child(ren) may feel that they are to blame, or they may feel angry, insecure, alone, frightened, confused. They may be unsure how to feel towards the abuser and the non-abusing parent.


The longer children live with domestic abuse, the more severe the effects can be. Children who witness domestic abuse may:

  • feel frightened
  • become aggressive
  • display anti-social behaviour
  • suffer from depression or anxiety
  • not do as well at school – due to difficulties at home or disruption of moving to and from refuges