Domestic violence

Consequences for children co-experiencing violence

Co-experiencing violence always takes a toll on the children concerned. The severity of these consequences depends on a whole range of factors.

Children witnessing violence directly or indirectly are always affected by this experience, but co-experiencing violence does, of course, not have the same effects on all children. The acute effects can be unspecific, such as sleep disorders, difficulties at school, developmental retardation, aggressiveness and/or anxiety. Evidence shows that especially behavioural disorders and emotional problems, a negative impact on cognitive skills and long-term impacts on development can occur as a consequence of co-experiencing violence. For more information on the adverse effects on children development due to domestic violence refer to the research review published by Heinz Kindler (see below).

The severity of consequences depends on a whole range of additional factors. The consequences are different if the children are also directly abused. They depend on age, gender, the time that has passed since the violence was co-experienced, the relationship with the adults and also the kind of intervention measures.

Moreover, several studies suggest an additional connection: children who co-experience abuse, learn this behaviour and can adopt it. Evidence shows that these children can at least develop an acceptance for the use of violence as a way of conflict management, and thus justify their own violence.