Recovery For Abused Women

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Domestic Violence Series for November 5, 2020 "Age Specific Effect of Domestic Violence on Children" (Part 3C) S20

Domestic Violence Series (Part 3)

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children Victims/Witness Continued : 

E.  Age Specific Effects of Domestic Violence on Children – (Part 3C)

Age-specific indicators

1. Infants

  • Basic need for attachment is disrupted.
    • Routines around feeding/sleeping are disturbed.
    • Injuries while "caught in the crossfire".
    • Irritability or inconsolable crying.
    • Frequent illness.
    • Difficulty sleeping.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Developmental delays.
    • Lack of responsiveness.

2. Preschool

  • Somatic or psychosomatic complaints.
  • Regression.
  • Irritability.
  • Fearful of being alone.
  • Extreme separation anxiety.
  • Developmental delays.
  • Sympathetic toward mother.

3. Elementary Age

  • Vacillate between being eager to please and being hostile.
  • Verbal about home life.
  • Developmental delays.
  • Externalized behavior problems.
  • Inadequate social skill development.
  • Gender role modeling creates conflict/confusion.

4. Preadolescent Age

  • Behavior problems become more serious.
    • Increased internalized behavior difficulties: depression, isolation, withdrawal.
    • Emotional difficulties: shame, fear, confusion, rage.
    • Poor social skills.
    • Developmental delays.
    • Protection of mother, sees her as "weak".
    • Guarded/secretive about family.

5. Adolescent Age

  • Internalized and externalized behavior problems can become extreme and dangerous: drug/alcohol, truancy, gangs, sexual acting out, pregnancy, runaway, suicidal.
  • Dating relationships may reflect violence learned or witnessed in the home. Reference for this section: From Boulder (CO) County Safehouse.

F. What are the feelings of children who are exposed to battering?

Witnessing can mean SEEING actual incidents of physical/and or sexual abuse. It can mean HEARING threats or fighting noises from another room. Children may also OBSERVE the aftermath of physical abuse such as blood, bruises, tears, torn clothing, and broken items. Finally children may be AWARE of the tension in the home such as their mother’s fearfulness when the abuser’s car pulls into the driveway.

Children who are exposed to battering become fearful and anxious. They are always on guard, watching and waiting for the next event to occur. They never know what will trigger the abuse, and therefore, they never feel safe. They are always worried for themselves, their mother, and their siblings. They may feel worthless and powerless.

Children who grow up with abuse are expected to keep the family secret, sometimes not even talking to each other about the abuse. Children from abusive homes can look fine to the outside world, but inside they are in terrible pain. Their families are chaotic and crazy. They may blame themselves for the abuse thinking if they had not done or said a particular thing, the abuse would not have occurred. They may also become angry at their siblings or their mother for triggering the abuse. They may feel rage, embarrassment, and humiliation.

Children of abuse feel isolated and vulnerable. They are starved for attention, affection and approval. Because mom is struggling to survive, she is often not present for her children. Because dad is so consumed with controlling everyone, he also is not present for his children. These children become physically, emotionally and psychologically abandoned.

G. What behaviors do children who witness domestic violence exhibit?

The emotional responses of children who witness domestic violence may include fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at the mother for being unable to prevent the violence).

Physical responses may include stomachaches and/or headaches, bedwetting, and loss of ability to concentrate. Some children may also experience physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Others may be injured while trying to intervene on behalf of their mother or a sibling.

The behavioral responses of children who witness domestic violence may include acting out, withdrawal, or anxiousness to please. The children may exhibit signs of anxiety and have a short attention span which may result in poor school performance and attendance. They may experience developmental delays in speech, motor or cognitive skills. They may also use violence to express themselves displaying increased aggression with peers or mother. They can become self-injuring.

H. What are the long-term effects on children who witness domestic violence? – (Part 3A)

Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development. Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way. Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Abusers typically play into this by putting the mother down in front of her children and telling them that their mother is “crazy” or “stupid” and that they do not have to listen to her. Seeing their mothers treated with enormous disrespect, teaches children that they can disrespect women the way their fathers do.

Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They may replicate the violence they witnessed as children in their teen and adult relationships and parenting experiences. Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships.

Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.

PDF version of DV Series S20, Nov 5, 2020

Click below for previous sessions:

PDF version of DV Series S1, June 25, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S2, July 2, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S3, July 9, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S4, July 16, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S5, July 23, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S6, July 30, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S7, August 6, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S8, August 13, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S9, August 20, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S10, August 27, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S11, Sept 3, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S12, Sept 10, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S13, Sept 17, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S14, Sept 24, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S15, Oct 1, 2020 

PDF version of DV Series S16, Oct 8, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S17, Oct 15, 2020

PDF version of DV Series S18, Oct 22, 2020 

PDF version of DV Series S19, Oct 29, 2020

The last section posted will be “Domestic Violence Series” – Section XI – Parts 4A & 4B – “Related Articles and Resources for Domestic Violence and Abuse” on Thursday, November 12th. This section has a wealth of information on domestic violence and where you can obtain more information. Contact me if you have any other questions @


Peace be unto you and your family,

Rev. Dr. Dorothy E. Hooks


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