Impact of CDV on Children

According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, approximately one billion people globally are affected by CDV – and UNICEF estimates that 275 million children throughout the world are currently affected by this challenge. In the U.S., more than 15 million children experience the impact of CDV, living in a household where there is domestic violence.

For those who have, fortunately, never experienced CDV, it may be useful for them to understand the toll that this crisis takes on children.

Experts have found that the impact on children living in an abusive environment is often harmful and long-lasting. Growing up in this environment can persuade children that violence is a normal part of family life, and – as a result – they often echo the behavior they see at home and engage in violence themselves.

If the perpetrator of violence behavior is allowed to remain in the home, free of any repercussions, children learn that there are rarely any consequences for inflicting harm on others. As a result, children can become confused about the emotions of love and hurt. The feelings they experience in connection with their parents can also become confused, resulting in a loss of respect or even some kind of retaliatory abuse. With this foundation, children raised in an abusive household often grow up to become perpetrators or victims of violent behavior themselves. In fact, research has found that childhood domestic violence – living in a household where one parent directs abusive behavior towards the other – is the single most important indicator that this cycle will continue once the child becomes an adult.

Children in households where there is domestic violence may:

  • Feel frightened, confused and unhappy

  • Show signs of aggressive or belligerent behavior, or become withdrawn or fearful

  • Experience depression or suicidal tendencies

  • Blame themselves for the domestic violence they see around them

  • Engage in self-destructive behavior

  • Experience physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches

  • Have difficulty sleeping

  • Test boundaries and subconsciously seek punishment for bad behavior such as lying or stealing, as they equate punishment with love

  • Have rigid role identities reinforced

  • Become withdrawn, passive and prone to approval-seeking behavior (in girls); and aggressive, bullying and engage in self-destructive behavior (in boys)

Researchers have also found that brain development may be compromised when children are exposed to traumatic stimulation, and this can result in learning disabilities, aggression and stress response.

Parents of children currently living in situations like this are encouraged to make a change, so that these damaging consequences can be minimized or avoided. Taking action also demonstrates to children the importance of taking positive action to correct a damaging situation. In addition, seeking the help of a therapist can help children handle the trauma and confusing emotions they are often experiencing following this experience.

Remember, it is possible to break this cycle of violence – and all children deserve this kind of love and protection.

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