The following behaviors can often be seen in children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence.

Infants — Age 3

  • physical problems (frequent colds, diarrhea)
  • excessive screaming and irritability
  • problems falling asleep
  • developmental delays (not gaining weight, not eating)
  • anxiety, sadness, crying, emotional withdrawal

Ages 3 — 7

  • delayed language development
  • regression to infant-like behavior such as thumb sucking
  • difficulty getting along with others
  • hostility and aggression
  • defiant and destructive behavior
  • clinging behavior
  • fear
  • self-blaming and feelings of guilt

Ages 7 — 13

  • low self-esteem
  • conflicted feelings about the abuser
  • increased aggression toward peers, siblings and parents
  • shame (denying the violence at home)
  • delinquent behavior (stealing, fighting, using drugs)

Ages 13 — 18

  • patterns of blaming others for his/her behavior, especially parents
  • high levels of anger and anxiety
  • inappropriate belief that violence can be a response to conflict
  • protective behavior toward the victim
  • violence against the victim
  • sense of responsibility for the care of younger siblings
  • running away
  • patterns of truancy
  • substance abuse problems
  • promiscuous behavior

Additional Effects — All Age Groups

  • increased emotional needs
  • difficulty adjusting to school
  • school phobias (might fear leaving the victim alone)
  • somatic problems (asthma, peptic ulcers, chronic headaches, abdominal cramps)
  • eating disorders
  • patterns of increased deceptiveness (excessive lying, stealing, cheating)
  • inclination to mutilate or kill animals
  • inability to trust and develop relationships
  • low tolerance for frustration
  • self-destructive behavior, self-mutilation
  • memory of every detail of abuse
  • blames the victim for the abuse, pressures him/her to make things better
  • poor sexual image
  • low self-esteem
  • bed wetting