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Witnessing Domestic Violence in the Family: Mental and Emotional Effects on Kids

7 mn read

Some children may not be directly victimized by violence in the family, yet they are harshly affected more than you see and more than they let you see. The fright of domestic violence breaks your children’s hearts, stains their minds and destroys their lives. Beware.

People usually think of the words slapping, punching, hitting, choking, pulling hair and beating up when the phrase being defined is “domestic violence”. Yes, that’s right, but sadly, as if these are not enough, this maltreatment is not limited to these kinds of abuses. While the above-mentioned are just “some” of the physical assaults involved in domestic violence, there also exists mental, emotional, verbal, sexual and financial abuse. This is domestic violence. There is indeed more than what meets the eye.

Transgressors in domestic violence have a controlling behavior which they use to overrule their victims. The brutality does not happen once but over and over again. It wrecks families and even kills lives. Not to mention, domestic violence is a crushing issue with heartbreaking statistics of illnesses and death it resulted in in several countries across the globe.

Women are the most common victims, but men also are targets of domestic violence. You may assume that families with violence as part of their daily lives are barely breathing. Instead of living in a place of harmony and warmth, they are residing in a cage of fear and trembling. What’s more alarming is that not only the direct objects of violence are affected but also the witnesses which are most often the kids in the family.

These children may not be experiencing the injuries first hand, but the threats to their psychological and emotional well-being are heart-rending. Keep reading this piece to know the mental and emotional issues that kids suffer from witnessing domestic violence in the family. It’s important to be informed to know how to protect yourself and your kids.


Photo credit: Uplift Families

They see their mom being hit with hard objects at home, being punched when the spouse is angry, being trapped in a room whenever disputes are not fixed. They hear how their dad gets awfully ridiculed behind and in front of friends and relatives, gets hindered to talk and decide on family matters, and gets slapped and pinched during the couple’s arguments.

Actually, no words are needed to explain further how terrorizing and frightening these are, not just for the victims but also for the children who witness and hear. They are only a bit of the countless examples of abusive scenarios inside the family.

Kids living in a home with a day-to-day setting that makes them feel insecure are living a life of horror. This is most likely noticeable as kids show signs of fearful hiding at the presence of abusers and separation anxiety from trusted people. Often, they would rather lock themselves up inside their rooms or stay away from home. What makes these young ones more afraid is the thought of not being able to do anything to stop the abuser and to help the victim in their family.


Photo credit: Teens-Love-To-Know

No one will ever be glad to see people in the family fight to the point of inflicting visible and invisible injuries on each other or on one person.

Along with the anxiety and shock that kids bear comes depression. Of course, they are very much disappointed and upset about how their family turns out. With the exhaustion from the nightmare the kids are in enters despair.

Reports show that children exposed to higher degrees of domestic violence have higher chances of desiring to harm or hurt themselves which may also be a result of depression.


Photo credit: Dadly Reviews

Children who witness domestic violence suffer from sleeping difficulties such as having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep and not being able to sleep at all.

Because of the uneasiness they feel being surrounded by homemade danger, their sleep is bothered and becomes unstable. Thoughts of fear come into mind and replays of the abuses they see appear even when they close their eyes. They’re haunting them, even bringing them to tears in the middle of the night. These are just too much to handle that even their sleeping time is disrupted and disquieted.


Nobody will ever be thankful to anyone who hurts their loved ones.

Most kids who are witnesses of domestic violence grow up with anger and hatred towards the abuser who could be their other parent or another family member. You cannot blame them for feeling extremely mad after seeing every ruthless deed towards another beloved family member. And you don’t have to blame them because domestic violence is truly never reasonable. Expect that it will also be absolutely hard for most children to forgive these people even after they ask for forgiveness and/or receive their punishment.

But here’s something to keep in mind as responsible parents and guardians too. While it’s normal for kids to feel mad and hateful towards the abusers, make sure that they don’t do the same violence towards others, even towards the abusers, because of the anger they have. Raise them well and love them uprightly, teaching them not to live in anger forever. It is most essential for their own freedom and peace of mind as well.


Photo credit: Child Psychologists

Many causes of violence at home include the parents arguing about matters involving the kids. When things get heated up, abuse occurs when one party brings out the heavy hand and the hurtful words.

As the kids see and listen to the disagreements turn into violence, they blame themselves when they know that they are the root of the problem, regardless of what that is. This can be dangerous because feelings of guilt, even when they don’t do anything wrong, may lead to inflicting pain on themselves.


Combine terror, anxiety, discomfort, depression, anger and guilt altogether. They make the worst combination there is. While there are so many possible sums of these, just consider poor self-esteem now.

When kids who witness family violence develop these, it’s not very surprising at all when some of them have unhealthy self-esteem. They are not confident and not proud about themselves, specifically when talking about their family. They are scared to be judged and to be mistreated. Their view of self-worth is blurry or even broken.


Photo credit: Baby Chick

Stranger anxiety is a distress that babies experience when they meet unfamiliar faces, but even when children are no longer infants, they may develop this anxiety because they are afraid that all the strangers they encounter are wicked like the abusers they despise. They are very much afraid to experience the domestic violence they see inside their own habitat.

Children who unwillingly or accidentally watch the abuse develop tough barricades of trust issues. This becomes a defense mechanism for them so they can protect and prevent themselves from becoming thrashed and victimized. These are involved in the emergence of their stranger anxiety which might make them close their eyes from seeing the good attributes of other people and makes them hesitant to meet new people too.



Some children who witness domestic violence may react hypersensitively while some may be more tenacious and stouthearted. But nonetheless, know that these kids need the help and guidance of parents who fully understand the unlikeable situation in the family and can enlighten them.

They can more feasibly recover from traumas and can respond better to what’s happening around them if they have a healthy support system and good relationships with trustworthy adults inside or outside the family. Help them feel safe and secure, and do your best to safeguard them.

Seek professional help from family counsellors, school counsellors, psychiatrists, therapists and domestic violence advocates to aid your children if they are having these mental and emotional strains. Do so even if they have not shown these signs but you’re aware that domestic violence is in your family. Why? Because when the children hide their struggles from their parents, you won’t be able to help them help themselves. Though they are not the direct victims of domestic violence, their mental and emotional well-being are damaged more than you know.

Don’t hesitate to call the police and contact lawyers that can represent you in court to fight against the abuse you are experiencing inside your home. They are there to aid in filing legal charges against your abuser. Do these without reluctance, so you can free yourself from the oppression you don’t deserve and heal your kids from the psychological tortures they also suffer from.



Nicole Ann Pore is a writer, an events host and a voice over artist. She finds quality and well-researched writing as a worthwhile avenue to enlighten and delight others about things that matter. For her, it’s restoring and fulfilling to the heart and a great way to clear the mind while loading it up with fresh learning. Film critiquing and filmmaking are among her interests too. Giving all the glory to God, Nicole graduated Cum Laude from De La Salle University Manila, Philippines with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts.

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