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How Witnessing Domestic Violence Affects Children

Short and Long-Term Effects of Witnessing Domestic Violence as a Child

Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences.

child exposure to domestic violence essay

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

child exposure to domestic violence essay

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Short-Term Effects of Witnessing Domestic Violence as a Child

  • Long-Term Consequences

Protecting Children from Domestic Abuse

For victims of domestic violence —the physical attacks, emotional maltreatment, and other abuse endured are certain to take a toll on well-being. 

However, while the horrors of abuse are apparent in primary victims—children who witness the abuse of their mothers, fathers, or other family members, are impacted.

This article will look into the lasting psychological and physical effects of a child’s exposure to domestic violence . To reduce the risk of these effects, it is also important to highlight ways that children can be protected from harm’s way.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database .

As an all-too-common occurrence across the country, domestic violence is an uncomfortable feature of many American homes. An estimated 10 million people are affected by incidents of domestic abuse annually, a number that widens when silent victims, like children, are considered.

In 2010, 1 in 15 children were exposed to cases of intimate partner violence, with a worrying 1 in 3 children also experiencing acts of violence.

The effects of domestic abuse on children may be apparent within a short period of time, while other damages may be noticed in the long run. Some of the immediate effects that children experience after witnessing domestic violence are discussed below.

Children are likely to remain on edge if they are always surrounded by the abuse of one parent by the other. These children will live in bated breath for the next time physical or verbal assault might take place in their home. This can breed a state of perpetual anxiety .

For pre-schoolers who witness this, it isn’t uncommon to revert to the habits of younger children. Thumb sucking, bedwetting , increased crying, and whining may result from observing abuse.

School-aged children can develop anti-social traits and may struggle with guilt over the abuse witnessed. These children typically take on the blame for the abuse their parent deals with, a belief that can strongly bruise their self-esteem .

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

One of the most devastating effects of domestic violence is its ability to cause post-traumatic stress disorder in children that are raised around it.

Despite being spared from physical abuse, the trauma of domestic violence is enough to cause dangerous changes in the developing brains of children. These changes may cause nightmares , changes in sleep patterns , anger, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and children may sometimes have the ability to re-enact aspects of the traumatizing abuse observed.

Physical Challenges

Mental health strains are a common result of witnessing the abuse of a parent. However, these consequences may sometimes be apparent in their physical well-being.

School-aged children may report headaches and stomach pains which are traceable to the tense situation back home. In infants, there is a higher risk of experiencing physical injury following the constant stream of abuse on a parent.

Aggressive Behavior

When teenagers witness domestic abuse, they tend to act out in reaction to the situation . They may fight, skip school, engage in risky sexual activities, or dabble in drugs and alcohol. These teenagers are also very likely to get in trouble with the law.

Physical Abuse

In many instances, children that live in abusive households are also likely to fall victim to this treatment themselves.

An abusive partner can very easily become an abusive parent or guardian—physically, verbally, and emotionally harming their children.

Long-Term Effects of Witnessing Domestic Violence as a Child

As helpful as distance might be, simply moving away from domestic violence isn’t enough to undo the damage caused by witnessing it.

Children that grew up watching a parent experience abuse are likely to deal with effects that last well into adulthood. Some of the long-term effects that children experience after witnessing domestic violence are addressed below.

The anxious child raised in a toxic, abusive environment may grow to become a depressed adult . The trauma of routinely witnessing domestic violence places children at a high risk of developing depression, sadness, concentration issues, and other symptoms of depression into adulthood.

Health Problems

A poor diet or environmental risks may not always be the primary causes of conditions like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes in adulthood.

In some cases, these illnesses have direct links to the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse a child witnesses or is subjected to.

Repeating Abusive Patterns

While abusive behavior can be repetitive, it's important to note that abuse does not always occur in a cyclical pattern. In fact, assuming that violence occurs in cycles can lead to victim-blaming. Abuse can be unpredictable and is it never OK.

Feeling the pain and anguish of witnessing violence doesn’t always guarantee that children will toe a different path. In some cases, early exposure to abuse simply sets the stage for children to walk that same line in adulthood.

In these cases, male children might physically abuse their partners after watching their fathers do the same. Likewise, women from homes that witness domestic violence are more likely to be sexually assaulted by their partners in adulthood.  

Knowing that domestic violence can have lasting effects on the physical, mental, and later life of children—it's important to properly shield them from abuse. The following are ways to protect a child from domestic abuse.

Make Safety a Priority

One of the best ways to protect the interest and well-being of a child is for victims to receive the necessary support they need to leave the abusive environment.

By doing this, children are spared further exposure to violence and are given a chance to grow up within healthier structures. 

Teach Children Healthy Relationship Dynamics

With a skewed view about romantic dynamics, talking to children about healthier interactions between partners can help to manage the damage caused after witnessing domestic violence.

Children should be taught healthy ways to resolve disputes in friendships. It's important that they learn wholesome ways that partners can relate with each other, taking care to share why violence has no place in relationships.

Educating Children About Boundaries

An effective way to manage the damage, and prevent a cycle of domestic violence is to teach children healthy boundaries.

Teaching children about autonomy (that no one has a right to touch their bodies or vice-versa) is a step in the right direction. Children should also be taught to always tell a trusted adult if another person is making them uncomfortable in any way.

A Word From Verywell

Domestic violence has the potential to leave lasting marks on direct and indirect victims. With psychological challenges like anxiety and depression likely to develop from domestic violence— receiving appropriate care from a mental health professional can help to manage these effects in children. Therapy can also help with navigating the emotional strain and trauma of living in a toxic environment.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence and Children .

Office on Women’s Health. Effects of Domestic Violence on Children’s Health .

Tsavoussis A, Stawicki SP, Stoicea N, Papadimos TJ. Child-witnessed domestic violence and its adverse effects on brain development: a call for societal self-examination and awareness . Front Public Health . 2014;2:178. Published 2014 Oct 10. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00178

Stiles MM. Witnessing Domestic Violence: The Effect on Children . Am Fam Physician . 2002;66(11):2052-2067.

Moylan CA, Herrenkohl TI, Sousa C, Tajima EA, Herrenkohl RC, Russo MJ. The Effects of Child Abuse and Exposure to Domestic Violence on Adolescent Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems .  J Fam Violence . 2010;25(1):53-63. doi:10.1007/s10896-009-9269-9

Monnat SM, Chandler RF. Long Term Physical Health Consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences . Sociol Q . 2015;56(4):723-752. doi:10.1111/tsq.12107

By Elizabeth Plumptre Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences.

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children’s Social and Emotional Development Essay

Children between the ages of zero and six year are continuously learning and developing socially and emotionally. For an appropriate development, a child needs love and care from both parents. In the case of families experiencing domestic violence, the social and emotional development of children brought put in such families is affected negatively. Psychological wellness of the child is affected at early age and later in life.

Introduction

Domestic violence has been an issue in many societies in the world but considered as a family matter, it’s only of late that legal proceedings can be taken on an offender. Since women movements in 1970s, domestic violence has become a legal matter calling for police, courts and judicial process intervention.

When one is talking of domestic violence, what comes in mind is wife or husband violence; in most case women are on the receiving end, they are subjected to physical, psychological and emotional violence. However the scope of domestic violence extend far beyond this believe to include child abuse and the effects that such abuse have on a child.

Family violence is a term that can be used to describe the various forms of violence that happen within a family set up. A family is a sociological unit which includes parents and children. The most common types of violence within the family are wife abuse and child abuse. Violence in this sense may include slaps, pushes, sexual abuse, battering, and use of abusive words. A research conducted by in United States of America, shown that each year over 3.3 children suffer from domestic violence.

The recognition of this is affected by lack of data that can be used for the analysis. The effect is mostly psychological, emotional and sometimes physical. The most noted one is physical and thus emotional and psychological remains not recorded (Shaffer, 2009). This paper discusses how children social and emotional development is affected by exposure to domestic violence. It will focus on children below the age of six years.

Child emotional and social development and domestic violence

Between the ages of Zero years to six years, a child is constantly learning and developing emotional and social health/character. At this age, he has no much choice on what and who to believe. Parents have the burden of developing a healthy emotional and social need of the child. The environment that a child grows in affects his social and emotional development.

Socialisation factors dominate in his character building as well as personality. The family is the first socialisation stage that a child gets. What the child observes is registered in its mind and goes a long way in forming attitude, behaviours and feeling about a certain issues at hand. If the family is undergoing domestic violence, the child mind will be exposed to violence and will form perception and attitudes towards such.

For example if a child is brought up in a family that the husband dominated and when he battles the wife it is generally accepted; a male child from such a home will develop a believe that women are inferior than men and thus they should be bitten. At this tender age a child is not able to differentiate what is good and what is wrong but learns from what surrounds him or her.

Impact of domestic volence on the emotional regulation of children

Rigterink, Fainsilber , and Hessler in the Journal of interpersonal violence, observe that early exposure of children to domestic violence influences their emotion regulation abilities. To evaluate the effect, the trio used baseline vagal tone (VT) method as the measuring parameter/unit.

They observed that the effects have a long-lasting effect in a child’s life and affects its social and emotional health. The research by the trio went further and evaluated other effects that domestic violence has on trajectory of children’s physiological regulatory abilities; they observed that in preschool and lower classes, children who come from families experiencing domestic violence have low concentration in class and are more likely to be violent in class (Zerk, Mertin & Proeve, 2009).

Expressing ones emotions is an important aspect in human growth and development. In domestically violent homes, violence may sometime erupt when one of the parents has expressed his/her emotions. The child is learning all this and has seen where the problem came from. His mind will convince him/her that violence is as a result of someone expressing his feeling. In the future the child decides not to air out their views and feelings. This results to children who are emotionally troubled.

They don’t know when to express their feeling and fear if they do, they might be subjected to violence. Good communication is an element of how well a person can express himself. If the child at tender age fears expressing his feeling, the same will affect him in the future. A research done by Joseph, Govender & Bhagwanjee, in 2006 showed that in episodes of violence children are left to wonder which side they should take.

It said that girls cried openly in the presence of the parents but boys cried secretly when they reflect on what was happening to their parents. This is a retaliatory reaction; the children in the research said they felt like hitting the abusing parent but instead ended up in this form of retaliatory response. From a different angle, this is grudge that the child has created with one parent which affects their relationship in the future (Zerk, Mertin & Proeve, 2009)

In extreme conditions, children from these homes shows similar characteristics like those seen in children living in areas of total war. Their condition can be termed as post-traumatic stress.

In the case of wife-husband violence, always, one parent will be the offender and the other one the victim; in an ideal situation, a child needs the love of a both parents. In this case he will lack either because the offender feels that he is not obligated to love the child. His/her mind is occupied with what they are going through with the spouse and not the care of the child. He/she is not able to provide the needed emotional support to his/her child.

The other parent heart is troubled and cannot give care to the child. Eventually the child suffers. Since the brain of a child is young and willing to learn, the child looks for love in other places like television; which may not give him/her the right moral teaching. The agony of the child goes further since shelters available for battled women or men do not take care of children. The child is left hanging on the balance not to know whether to stay or move with the offended parent.

At this moment, the child psychological, social and emotional stability is affected. The child is exposed to making lifetime decisions at an age below six years. Training to domestic violence care givers overlook the effect the violence might have hand on children and thus they end up healing the family but leaving scars and unsolved questions in children. This emotionally and socially disturbs a child in such homes (Linda and Alison 2009).

Impact on social development with peers and other adults

A family is expected to be a unit of peace where a child gets emotional care and benefits from the parents. It forms the background of human socialisation. The child is taught on basic interaction strategies at home. When a child is brought up in family that do not respect children rights but goes ahead and abuses the child; the child development is influenced by such actions.

All forms of child abuse have long lasting effects on a child. It may be physical or emotional. Emotional violence is registered in a child life for a long period of time and keeps haunting them in one way or another. This influences how he interacts with other peers.

When parents are fighting in the presence of the children, the child out of fear starts to cry. He/she does not know what to do, who to support, who call help from. The child gets emotionally troubled (Anderson & Aviles, 2006). “We are what we were socialized to be”, this statement observes that if a child has been socialised in a violent family, chances are high that it will develop certain attitude towards violence and may end up being violent also.

It is appreciated that there might not be much statistical data regarding the number and age of effect, the truth stands that children are affected by domestic violence. Infants , preschool going children as well as children are affected and portray different responses which stems from the family background that they have come from. Young children exposed to family violence at tender age show an increased irritation, sleep disturbances and excessive aggression; this stems from what they see in life.

Being aggressive and not able to control ones anger is a show of a person/child who is emotionally disturbed,. When this happens it does not end at childhood age but goes to affect the child till adulthood. Children tend to practice what they see in television, homes and in the society they are living in. This explains the aggressiveness and anger that those from families undergoing domestic violence. The emotional difficulty can be seen at ages below the age of six years (Anderson & Aviles, 2006).

John Bowlby’s theory of internal working models

The theory states that for health social and emotional development, a child requires the care and emotional attachment of their parents. This lack in the case of domestic violence a child emotional development is drastically affected. At this tender age, a child has not interacted much with the outside world. He gets comfort and safety in its parents. His/her mind is opened to learn from the surrounding. In the case the family has had violence, the child experiences lack of trust in either parent.

He is not sure of who to trust. Parents are the most reliable people that a child can expect care, love and emotional needs satisfaction. In the case that the family is in constant violence, the child is not given attention and it’s emotional and safety needs are not met. These results to children do not trust their parents . this has a long effect in the child’s life. In later years trusting even one’s spouse will be a problem (Anderson & Aviles, 2006).

In most/all cases, in the case of violence, there is always an exchange of harsh words among the spouse or to a child. These things register in the mind of the child and in the future he may take them and believe that is the situation. For example if in violence the mother of a child refers his husband as useless, the child is likely to believe that his father is useless. This believes may haunt him in the future where in case his father does something out of the ordinary the child thinks he is doing that out of being useless.

When a family is undergoing domestic violence, both the parents are psychologically, emotionally and socially unsettled. They are having lot of unresolved businesses between themselves in what can be said to be a competition to fight for children’s favour. In this situation the child is neglected.

Neglect is in the form of provide for a child’s basic and emotional need. The parents may become unable to provide physical and emotional care to their children’s. Neglected children are depressed and emotionally troubled. They feel they are not treated well by the same people they trust for this care.

Alcohol has been used as an escapist method by parents whose families do not have peace. On the other hand the drunken parent cannot take care of his children effectively financially and emotionally. This results to neglected children. In later years, adolescence, the children experience constant emotional pain which can be shown on competent face towards the outside world. The child is always fearful and suspicious of the world he/she is living in (Carretta, 2008)

Learning theory of development

The theory states that development is an individual is affected by the socialization environment that he is living in. Children under the age of six years are constantly learning and their character is developing. They need emotional and social support to make them better human beings in the future.

If they are brought up in families which have constant domestic violence, they lack the much needed care from their parents and end up emotionally troubled. When they are relating with other kids whether in school or at home, they are affected by the feeling that they are inferior; in class work, the children do not understand as fast as they are expected to be absorbing.

This is because their mind is not set. They do not have peace of mind. To them the world is not being fair. When it comes with interaction with other children in games and other social activities, these children may be outdrawn or when playing he portrays aggressiveness, this may lead to other kinds negative perception towards the child a move that make the victim child more emotionally troubled (Fantuzzo, Fusco, Mohr & Perry, 2007).

Implications for an early childhood educator

An early child educator is the one who is responsible of early teaching of a child in formal education; it is important for him to know the signs and symptoms of a child who comes from families with domestic violence. After doing so he will be able to handle the child professionally in class.

When children are continuously seeing their parents fight, they are always feeling that they should come to the rescue of the victim. However, they are incapable of. Boys are affected even higher, they feel their weaknesses are being utilised by the violent parent.

The children feel anxious and powerlessness. They have to look for a coping strategy which they result to denial. In these situations to cope with the feelings, they use denial as a coping strategy to traumatic situation. An example is when a child is used to seeing parents in constant fights, he may say “that’s normal” such an attitude results from denial. This denial cognitive strategy results to a person who accepts pain even when they are not legitimate (Zerk, Mertin & Proeve, 2009).

Abraham Maslow, in his theory of hierarchy of needs, quotes psychological need as one human need. Fear is an element of psychological need. When a child seeing his parents in constant battle, the child fears that the same may happen to him/her. A violent partner threatens a family and the child lives in constant fear.

The panic caused shapes the attitude and psychological needs of the child. He always feels that his life is threatened. In case there is only one parent who is violent, the child feels threatened by the parent; ambivalence, the child starts taking sides in the family. He may in the future respond differently to the two parents. He is not sure who he can trust and why. This affects the emotional health of the child (Carretta, 2008).

How can the effect of domestic violence be changed

The effect that domestic violence especially those not directly on a child have been ignored for a long period of time. The focus has been domestic violence which considers the case of parties concerned (husband and wife) and has left the effects that this violence has on children from such families.

Children issues are talked when direct child abuse is being considered. The bitter truth is that children are also affected by domestic violence. At infant and tender age, the effects can be seen in the way the child preserves life. He may have negative attitudes and cannot control his/her emotions. When parents are fighting, the child suffers in silence and this have an effect on its cognitive development. He feels that life is not favouring him; he results to denial.

Lack of data and adequate research in the area have made psychologist and persons concerned about the welfare of relations ignore the need to incorporate child counselling in the event of a domestic child. The child emotional and social life is challenged.

The societies have the burden of understanding and appreciating this effect and should devise measures to atop the trend. For instance, during courtship and marriage counselling’s, couples should be trained on how not to fight or resolve their issues in an arguing manner.

They may for example take the bedroom strategy where they will withdraw from the children when solving issues. In the case of violence, counsellors should appreciate that children are equally affected by the violence and should have a section with the child. They should build confidence and give the child emotional support to face life after that (Horton, 2008).

Between the ages of zero to six years, a child is constantly learning new things. His social and emotional characters are developing. The development of these characters is influenced by the exposure that he gets from his parents. When brought up in a family that experiences violence, the child social and emotional development is affected. Domestic violence has been in the society since people started living together. Having differences in family is healthy but how a couple resolves the differences is where the problem lies.

In case of domestic violence, it is not the couple alone which suffer but their children too are affected socially and emotionally. What the child observes is registered in its mind and goes a long way in forming attitude, behaviours and feeling about a certain issues at hand. If the family is undergoing domestic violence, the child mind will be exposed to violence and will form perception and attitudes towards such. When exposed to violence his attitude, personality, behaviour and cognitive development is affected.

Anderson, T., & Aviles, A. (2006). Diverse faces of domestic violence. ABNF Journal, 17 (4), 129-132. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.

Carretta, C. (2008). Domestic violence: a worldwide exploration. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 46 (3), 26-35. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.

Emery, R. (1989). Family violence. American Psychologist, 44 (2), 321-328. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.44.2.321.

Fantuzzo, J., Fusco, R., Mohr, W., & Perry, M. (2007). Domestic Violence and Children’s Presence: A Population-based Study of Law Enforcement Surveillance of Domestic Violence. Journal of Family Violence, 22 (6), 331-340. doi:10.1007/s10896-007-9080-4.

Fritz, G. (2000). Domestic violence hurts children as well as adults. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 16 (7), 8. Retrieved from Professional Development Collection database.

Horton, A. (2008). Domestic violence: the untold story. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 18 (1), 31-47. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.

Linda B. and Alison C.(2009). Inter-Parental Violence: The Pre-Schooler’s Perspective and the Educator’s Role. EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION JOURNAL . Volume 37, Number 3, 199-207, DOI: 10.1007/s10643-009-0342-z

Joseph, S., Govender, K., & Bhagwanjee, A. (2006). “I can’t see him hit her again, I just want to run away… hide and block my ears”: A Phenomenological Analysis of a Sample of Children’s Coping Responses to Exposure to Domestic Violence. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 6 (4), 23. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Rigterink,T., Fainsilber L., and Hessler, D.(2010).“Domestic Violence and Longitudinal Associations With Children’s Physiological Regulation Abilities”. Journal of interpersonal violence . 25 (12)

Shaffer, D. (2009). Social and Personality Development (6th Ed). Belmont, CA: Belmont

Zerk, D., Mertin, P., & Proeve, M. (2009). Domestic Violence and Maternal Reports of Young Children’s Functioning. Journal of Family Violence, 24 (7), 423-432. doi:10.1007/s10896-009-9237-4.

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Bibliography

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Effects of domestic violence on children

child exposure to domestic violence essay

Many children exposed to violence in the home are also victims of physical abuse. 1 Children who witness domestic violence or are victims of abuse themselves are at serious risk for long-term physical and mental health problems. 2 Children who witness violence between parents may also be at greater risk of being violent in their future relationships. If you are a parent who is experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know how to protect your child.

What are the short-term effects of domestic violence or abuse on children?

Children in homes where one parent is abused may feel fearful and anxious. They may always be on guard, wondering when the next violent event will happen. 3 This can cause them to react in different ways, depending on their age:

  • Children in preschool. Young children who witness intimate partner violence may start doing things they used to do when they were younger, such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, increased crying, and whining. They may also develop difficulty falling or staying asleep; show signs of terror, such as stuttering or hiding; and show signs of severe separation anxiety.
  • School-aged children. Children in this age range may feel guilty about the abuse and blame themselves for it. Domestic violence and abuse hurts children’s self-esteem. They may not participate in school activities or get good grades, have fewer friends than others, and get into trouble more often. They also may have a lot of headaches and stomachaches.
  • Teens. Teens who witness abuse may act out in negative ways, such as fighting with family members or skipping school. They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex and using alcohol or drugs. They may have low self-esteem and have trouble making friends. They may start fights or bully others and are more likely to get in trouble with the law. This type of behavior is more common in teen boys who are abused in childhood than in teen girls. Girls are more likely than boys to be withdrawn and to experience depression. 4

What are the long-term effects of domestic violence or abuse on children?

More than 15 million children in the United States live in homes in which domestic violence has happened at least once. 5 These children are at greater risk for repeating the cycle as adults by entering into abusive relationships or becoming abusers themselves. For example, a boy who sees his mother being abused is 10 times more likely to abuse his female partner as an adult. A girl who grows up in a home where her father abuses her mother is more than six times as likely to be sexually abused as a girl who grows up in a non-abusive home. 6

Children who witness or are victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These can include mental health  conditions, such as depression and anxiety . They may also include diabetes , obesity, heart disease , poor self-esteem, and other problems. 7

Can children recover from witnessing or experiencing domestic violence or abuse?

Each child responds differently to abuse and trauma. Some children are more resilient, and some are more sensitive. How successful a child is at recovering from abuse or trauma depends on several things, including having: 8

  • A good support system or good relationships with trusted adults
  • High self-esteem
  • Healthy friendships

Although children will probably never forget what they saw or experienced during the abuse, they can learn healthy ways to deal with their emotions and memories as they mature. The sooner a child gets help, the better his or her chances for becoming a mentally and physically healthy adult.

How can I help my children recover after witnessing or experiencing domestic violence?

You can help your children by:

  • Helping them feel safe. Children who witness or experience domestic violence need to feel safe. 9 Consider whether leaving the abusive relationship  might help your child feel safer. Talk to your child about the importance of healthy relationships.
  • Talking to them about their fears. Let them know that it’s not their fault or your fault. Learn more about how to listen and talk to your child about domestic violence  (PDF, 229 KB).
  • Talking to them about healthy relationships. Help them learn from the abusive experience by talking about what healthy relationships are and are not. This will help them know what is healthy when they start romantic relationships of their own.
  • Talking to them about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable, including family members, teachers, coaches, or other authority figures. Also, explain to your child that he or she doesn’t have the right to touch another person’s body, and if someone tells them to stop, they should do so right away.
  • Helping them find a reliable support system. In addition to a parent, this can be a school counselor, a therapist, or another trusted adult who can provide ongoing support. Know that school counselors are required to report domestic violence or abuse if they suspect it.
  • Getting them professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy or counseling that may work best for children who have experienced violence or abuse. 10 CBT is especially helpful for children who have anxiety or other mental health problems as a result of the trauma. 11 During CBT, a therapist will work with your child to turn negative thoughts into more positive ones. The therapist can also help your child learn healthy ways to cope with stress. 12

Your doctor can recommend a mental health professional who works with children who have been exposed to violence or abuse. Many shelters and domestic violence organizations also have support groups for kids. 13 These groups can help children by letting them know they are not alone and helping them process their experiences in a nonjudgmental place. 14

Is it better to stay in an abusive relationship rather than raise my children as a single parent?

Children do best in a safe, stable, loving environment, whether that’s with one parent or two. You may think that your kids won’t be negatively affected by the abuse if they never see it happen. But children can also hear abuse, such as screaming and the sounds of hitting. They can also sense tension and fear. Even if your kids don’t see you being abused, they can be negatively affected by the violence they know is happening.

If you decide to leave an abusive relationship, you may be helping your children feel safer and making them less likely to tolerate abuse as they get older. 15 If you decide not to leave, you can still take steps  to protect your children and yourself.

How can I make myself and my children safe right now if I’m not ready to leave an abuser?

Your safety and the safety of your children are the biggest priorities. If you are not yet ready or willing to leave an abusive relationship, you can take steps to help yourself and your children now, including: 16

  • Making a safety plan  for you and your child
  • Listening and talking to your child and letting them know that abuse is not OK and is not their fault
  • Reaching out to a domestic violence support person who can help you learn your options

If you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship, you may want to keep quiet about it in front of your children. Young children may not be able to keep a secret from an adult in their life. Children may say something about your plan to leave without realizing it. If it would be unsafe for an abusive partner to know ahead of time you’re planning to leave, talk only to trusted adults about your plan. It’s better for you and your children to be physically safe than for your children to know ahead of time that you will be leaving.

Did we answer your question about the effects of domestic violence on children?

For more information about the effects of domestic violence on children, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or check out the following resources from other organizations:

  • About the Issue: What is child abuse?  — Fact sheet from the Joyful Heart Foundation.
  • Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children  (PDF, 1.8 M) — Publication from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • Child Abuse — Information from KidsHealth.org.
  • Childhood Domestic Violence  — Information from the Childhood Domestic Violence Association.
  • Help for Families  — Information about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from the Office of Family Assistance.
  • Safety for Parents  — Information from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for parents about getting a child to safety.
  • Help for Parents of Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused by Family Members  — Information from RAINN.
  • Modi, M.N., Palmer, S., Armstrong, A. (2014). The Role of Violence Against Women Act in Addressing Intimate Partner Violence: A Public Health Issue . Journal of Women’s Health; 23(3): 253-259.
  • Gilbert, L.K., Breiding, M.J., Merrick, M.T., Parks, S.E., Thompson, W.W., Dhingra, S.S., Ford, D.C. (2015). Childhood Adversity and Adult Chronic Disease: An update from ten states and the District of Columbia, 2010 . American Journal of Preventive Medicine; 48(3): 345-349.
  • Domestic Violence Roundtable. (n.d.). The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children .
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Domestic Violence and the Child Welfare System . Washington, DC: Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • McDonald, R., Jouriles, E.N., Ramisetty-Mikler, S., Caetano, R., Green, C.E. (2006). ). Estimating the Number of American Children Living in Partner-Violent Families . Journal of Family Psychology; 20(1): 137-142.
  • Vargas, L. Cataldo, J., Dickson, S. (2005). Domestic Violence and Children . In G.R. Walz & R.K. Yep (Eds.), VISTAS: Compelling Perspectives on Counseling. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association; 67-69.
  • Monnat, S.M., Chandler, R.F. (2015),  Long Term Physical Health Consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences . The Sociologist Quarterly; 56(4): 723-752.
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Protective Factors Approaches in Child Welfare . Washington, DC: Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Interventions for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Core Principles .  
  • Caffo, E., Belaise, C. (2003). Psychological aspects of traumatic injury in children and adolescents . Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America; 12(3): 493-535.
  • Deblinger, E., Mannarino, A. P., Cohen, J. A., & Steer, R. A. (2006). A follow-up study of a multisite, randomized, controlled trial for children with sexual abuse-related PTSD symptoms. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 45(12): 1474-84. 
  • Kidshealth.org. (2013). Taking Your Child to a Therapist .
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Interventions for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Core Principles .
  • Vargas, L., Cataldo, J., Dickson, S. (2005). Domestic Violence and Children . In Walz, G.R., Yep, R.K. (Eds.), VISTAS: Compelling Perspectives on Counseling. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association; 67-69.
  • Center for Domestic Peace. (2016). Calling the Police .
  • Loveisrespect.org (n.d.). I Have Children with My Abuser .
  • Kathleen C. Basile, Ph.D., Lead Behavioral Scientist, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Kathryn Jones, M.S.W., Public Health Advisor, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Sharon G. Smith, Ph.D., Behavioral Scientist, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Staff
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Increased Risk for Child Exposure to Family Violence During Periods of Crisis

Recommendations for protecting children from harm, increased risk for family violence during the covid-19 pandemic.

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST : The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE : Dr Humphreys reports grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Jacobs Foundation, Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Peabody College (Vanderbilt University), and Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Dr Zeanah reports grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Lumos Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, and the Irving Harris Foundation. Dr Myint receives no external funding.

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Kathryn L. Humphreys , Myo Thwin Myint , Charles H. Zeanah; Increased Risk for Family Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Pediatrics July 2020; 146 (1): e20200982. 10.1542/peds.2020-0982

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Although the public health benefits of social distancing, isolation, and quarantines are well-established and essential for reducing risk of transmitting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), there are also likely consequences for these practices when considering the impact of violence in the home. Reports of increased domestic violence after quarantine orders in China have revealed the interpersonal violence risks of isolation. Indeed, in a recent review of the psychological impact of quarantine published in The Lancet , the authors indicated increased anger, confusion, and posttraumatic stress symptoms, as well as evidence of increases in substance use, in those subjected to quarantine. 1  

These kinds of dysregulated emotions and substance use can increase violent behavior, especially within the family. Children’s exposure to intimate partner violence, whether directly witnessed or overheard, is harmful and may lead to posttraumatic stress disorder and other serious emotional and behavioral problems. 2   Furthermore, intimate partner violence and child abuse often co-occur, 3   and it is likely that children will experience increased risk for maltreatment when isolated at home. In typical (ie, nonpandemic) circumstances, rates of child maltreatment are alarming. In the United States, 1 in 8 children have confirmed maltreatment by child protective services (CPS) in their lifetime. 4   Among these, recurrence of maltreatment is high. 5  

The authors are increasingly concerned about the risks for children and vulnerable families during this unprecedented period of isolation as child care centers and schools necessarily close their doors. The risks are compounded by added pressures that many parents continue to work full-time during these periods. If parents must leave their home to work, children face an increased risk for supervisory neglect (ie, not having adequate supervision to keep children from harm). If working from home, parents with young children are forced to try to meet work demands while simultaneously caring for young children. Changes in routine are upsetting, confusing, and difficult for young children. Increased oppositional behavior and limit testing are expected, and these behaviors are most likely to elicit harsh responses from parents. Coupled with parental anxiety and stress about financial, logistic, and existential concerns, these interactions are likely a recipe for temper outbursts and verbal and physical abuse. Young children are the most vulnerable to abuse, with the highest abuse related fatalities among those <12 months. 6   Unfortunately, school closures mean that the largest source of reports to CPS will disappear, resulting in reduced detection of maltreatment. Furthermore, given that well-child visits and other routine medical care are being postponed because of the pandemic, clinicians are losing the opportunities to both detect and prevent maltreatment.

Several avenues for reducing risk to children are achieved indirectly through the advocacy efforts of clinicians. These include stimulus payments from the federal government to provide parents financial relief and legislation mandating guaranteed paid sick leave for all workers. Employers must have clearly communicated and reasonable expectations for employees responsible for caring for others. In particular, caring for young children will reduce productivity, and hours of work will not align with typical “office hours.” Additional funding and support is needed for child welfare agencies and law enforcement, who employ essential workers unable to socially distance during their investigations, placements, and supervision of children needing protection.

For pediatricians and other health care professionals who interact directly with children and families, there is a need to maintain continuity of practice during times of disaster. 7   Although clinicians should discuss best practices to maintain hygiene, respond to school and child care closures, and discuss COVID-19 with children, the authors urge the inclusion of monitoring risk for violence in the home during these visits. Doing so while following social distancing practices means conducting many aspects of well-child visits using telehealth rather than postponing these important points of contact. Flexibility may be required to enable those without Internet to participate in telehealth visits. Telehealth limits the ability to assess children or parents in a space in which they have privacy from an abuser, and thus clinicians should be attuned to nonverbal cues or other signs that violence is occurring. Clinicians should continue to report concerns about suspected abuse or neglect to local CPS.

It is likely too early to detect large increases in reports of maltreatment, but because the economic stresses of the pandemic and disruptions of families’ usual sources of support will likely extend well beyond the period of “stay at home” orders, the risks of family violence will persist for some time. Recognizing that risk for family violence is high may help increase monitoring of the families being served and provide timely anticipatory guidance (see recommendations in Table 1 ).

Recommendations for Clinicians in Their Patient Interactions and Recommendations To Make to Parents

In addition, given the increased risk for trauma exposure, as well as anxiety and grief, during and after this crisis, identifying and managing anger and stress that affect family interactions, screening for posttraumatic stress symptoms, and providing practical resources such as those published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Child Traumatic Stress Network are warranted. This role is consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics statements regarding the pediatrician’s role in supporting the well-being of children and families, particularly during challenging times, and in reducing risk for intimate partner violence and in child maltreatment prevention. Overburdened families will experience the highest risks of violence and will require the most support. Systems ordinarily available to them are likely to be compromised but need to remain sensitive and responsive to these needs. This is important because our collective responsive to COVID-19 through social distancing and isolation may require these efforts for a prolonged period and will be unlike any challenge we have yet encountered.

Dr Humphreys conceptualized the initial idea for the manuscript and wrote the first draft of the manuscript; Drs Myint and Zeanah made substantial contributions to the manuscript conception and reviewed and revised the manuscript; and all authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

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Long-Term Impact of Domestic Violence on Individuals—An Empirical Study Based on Education, Health and Life Satisfaction

1 School of Economics, Hunan Agricultural University, Changsha 410128, China

Peng Yating

2 School of Pharmacy, Changsha Health Vocational College, Changsha 410600, China

Associated Data

This is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated.

This paper takes the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS) as a sample to assess the long-term impacts of domestic violence experienced in childhood on individuals. First, from the four dimensions of injury from violence, negligent care, emotional abuse and witness to domestic violence, an indicator system for quantifying domestic violence is constructed. Second, the simultaneous equation of self-evaluation health and life satisfaction is estimated by the seemingly unrelated regression model. Starting with education, health and life satisfaction, the long-term impact of domestic violence experiences on individuals is quantitatively assessed, providing empirical evidence for preventing and curing domestic violence and healing trauma. The empirical research shows the following: (1) An experience of domestic violence significantly reduces educational achievements. Compared with the three dimensions of injury from violence, negligent care and witnessing domestic violence, emotional abuse has the greatest negative impact on educational achievements. (2) Domestic violence significantly reduces the self-assessed health level and life satisfaction and increases the subjective mental health risk. Based on the complexity and concealment of domestic violence, combined with empirical research conclusions, this paper proposes countermeasures to prevent and control domestic violence.

1. The Raising of Questions

“Almost the love of children, love and fear arrest, such as the beginning of vegetation germination, ease of the bar, the destruction of the impotence” (Wang Yangming’s “General Idea of Discipline”). Domestic violence is one of the most negative experiences that can impact the temperament of teenagers, and the trauma it brings may accompany them for life. For a long time, news about domestic violence has frequently been reported. How to prevent and control domestic violence is a key issue in governance and public opinion. On 1 March 2016, the “Anti Domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China” (hereinafter referred to as the “Anti Domestic Violence Law”) was officially implemented, allowing the state to directly intervene in domestic violence through special laws. On 23 October 2021, the “Family Education Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China” was officially promulgated, which further clarified that “parents or other guardians of minors shall not discriminate against minors on the basis of sex, physical condition, intelligence, etc., and shall not commit domestic violence”. With the joint efforts of the government, society and the media, remarkable results in the prevention and treatment of domestic violence have been achieved, but how to heal the trauma caused by domestic violence still needs to be explored. Adler, a famous psychologist, believes that “an unhappy childhood needs a lifetime to be cured” [ 1 ]. Trauma events can have a broad and lasting impact on individuals, and clarifying the long-term impact of domestic violence on individuals is a prerequisite for healing the trauma [ 2 , 3 ].

For minors, domestic violence refers to the information perceived by minors that is related to violence in the family and can be divided into direct exposure and indirect exposure according to the form of violence exposure. The former refers to direct physical attacks and abuse suffered by minors at home, while the latter refers to the violence or aggressive behavior of family members that is seen or heard by minors [ 4 , 5 , 6 ].

In the existing laws and conventions, the definition of the scope of domestic violence is not completely unified. Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates: “When a child is under the care of parents, legal guardians or any other person responsible for the care of the child, he or she shall be protected from any form of physical or mental abuse, injury or abuse, neglect or improper care, abuse or exploitation”. Article 2 of Japan’s “Child Abuse Prevention Law” stipulates that “corresponding to the obvious abuse or rejection of children, illegal attacks such as physical violence against the spouse of a family with children living together endanger their lives or bodies and other words and deeds that have significant psychological harm to children.” There are plans for domestic violence, physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and other behaviors to be included in the category of domestic violence [ 7 , 8 ]. Article 2 of the “Anti Domestic Violence Law” of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that “domestic violence referred to in this Law refers to physical and mental violations committed among family members by means of beating, binding, maiming, restricting personal freedom, as well as constant abuse and intimidation.” Therefore, some scholars believe that negligent care, emotional abuse and the witnessing domestic violence should be defined as domestic violence against minors based on the distinctiveness of minors [ 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 ].

No matter what the form of domestic violence is, it will cause physical and psychological trauma to minors. Empirical evidence shows that domestic violence seriously harms children’s growth, and its cumulative effects may last until adulthood [ 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 ]. The harm caused by domestic violence is different for children of different ages, and early and long-term contact may cause more serious problems [ 17 ]. For preschool children and school-age children whose mothers have experienced domestic violence during pregnancy, 44% of them have at least one trauma symptom and separation anxiety [ 18 ]. It is often witnessed that domestic violence affects the brain development of children [ 19 ]. Lundy and Grossman (2005) [ 20 ] conducted a sample survey of 4636 children who had experienced domestic violence. One-fifth of them found it difficult to abide by school rules, and one-third of them were highly aggressive. This conclusion was also confirmed in another survey [ 21 ]. The harm caused by witnessing domestic violence cannot be ignored. Compared with children who have not witnessed domestic violence, preschool children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to have post-traumatic stress symptoms and find it more difficult to cultivate empathy and inferiority [ 22 , 23 ]. Similar to children, adolescents exposed to domestic violence are more likely to have various psychological and physical problems, experience sleep or eating disorders, engage in drug and alcohol abuse and are more likely to become perpetrators and victims of domestic violence in adulthood [ 24 , 25 ].

The existing literature has examined the definition and category of domestic violence from the perspective of the law, analyzed the adverse impact of domestic violence on personal growth from the perspective of psychology and proposed governance strategies regarding domestic violence from the perspective of social governance, but quantitative research is lacking. This paper uses the CHARLS (2011, 2013, 2015, 2018) and the “life course” survey as sample data to quantitatively assess the long-term impacts of the domestic violence experience on individuals from the perspectives of education, health and life satisfaction. The original intention of this paper is to provide empirical evidence to prevent domestic violence and heal trauma.

This paper consists of four parts as follows: first, based on the life course survey data of the CHARLS, we select the dimensions and indicators to quantify domestic violence and build an empirical model; second, we estimate the empirical model with sample data and adjust the empirical model to test the robustness of the empirical conclusion; finally, the research conclusions are summarized, and the corresponding countermeasures and suggestions are proposed.

2. Research Design

2.1. measurement of domestic violence.

This paper uses the data of China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS) from 2011 to 2018 (as shown in https://g2aging.org accessed on 13 December 2022). CHARLS survey was carried out in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018. The sample covered 150 counties, 450 communities (villages) and 12,400 households in 28 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government), with 19,000 respondents. The survey conducted four levels of sampling when selecting samples. PPS probability sampling proportional to the population size was adopted in the county (district) village (resident) sampling and then randomly selected sample households from each sample village/neighborhood committee through field mapping. A family member over 45 years of age was randomly selected from each sample household as the main interviewee to interview him (her) and his/her spouse; therefore, the accuracy, unbiased and representativeness of samples are guaranteed. CHARLS provides a wealth of personal, family and community information, including demographic variables and health information at the individual level, wealth, assets, occupation and income variables at the family level and financial and economic development variables at the community level [ 26 , 27 ]. In particular, CHARLS conducted a detailed survey on whether the interviewees suffered from domestic violence and bullying in their childhood and collected information on 12 bad childhood experiences and 14 chronic diseases and frequently occurring diseases of the participants. The 12 bad childhood experiences included physical abuse, emotional neglect, domestic drug abuse, family mental illness, domestic violence, family members being imprisoned, parents separated or divorced, dangerous neighbors, bullying, death of parents, death of brothers and sisters and disability of parents ( http://charls.pku.edu.cn/en/ , accessed on 24 September 2020). This objectively creates convenient conditions for assessing the long-term impact of domestic violence on individuals, facilitates tracking the long-term development of China’s population and provides a more scientific basis for formulating and improving China’s relevant policies. It can be said that for China, CHARLS data are the best data to study the impact of domestic violence on individuals. Based on the above reasons, this paper conducts research and analysis based on CHARLS. Based on the existing literature, taking into account the reality of family division of labor, women take on more specific tasks in the process of raising and caring for children, and children’s daily life mainly depends on female caregivers. This paper intends to construct an indicator system for quantifying domestic violence from the four dimensions of injury from violence, negligent care, emotional abuse and witnessing domestic violence (shown in Figure 1 ). In the life course survey, the respondents recorded in detail whether their parents had beaten them in childhood, whether they had enough experience to take care of themselves, how their relationship with their parents was and whether they had witnessed violence between their parents. The specific definition and quantification of the variables are shown in Table 1 .

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Object name is behavsci-13-00137-g001.jpg

Descriptive statistics of domestic violence dimensions.

Domestic violence dimensions and quantitative methods.

According to the descriptive statistics, 3.02% of the sample respondents were often beaten by male caregivers, while 4.35% were often beaten by female caregivers, and 6.5% of the respondents were neglected by female caregivers. The proportion of respondents who had bad relationships with male and female caregivers was 1.25 and 0.91%, respectively; 1.75% of respondents’ fathers often beat their mothers, while 0.39% of respondents’ mothers often beat their fathers. Based on the above secondary indicators, combined with the weighting method based on the coefficient of variation method, we estimated the domestic violence index [ 28 ]. The secondary indicator and primary indicator weights are also shown in Table 1 , and the nuclear density distribution of the domestic violence index is shown in Figure 2 . From the distribution of the domestic violence index, the estimation of the kernel density function shows a trailing pattern, and the proportion of respondents experiencing serious domestic violence is relatively low.

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Object name is behavsci-13-00137-g002.jpg

Nuclear density estimation of domestic violence index.

2.2. The Choice of Variables and the Construction of Empirical Models

2.2.1. selection of indicators.

This study intends to assess the long-term impact of domestic violence on minors from three aspects: education, health and life satisfaction, so three empirical models need to be built. For the interviewees, aspects such as educational achievements; primary family environment factors, such as parents’ educational level, family economic status, number of siblings, parents’ physical and mental health and whether parents have bad behaviors; demographic variables such as age, gender, nationality, urban or rural area, community environment and economic location; as well as other macro variables are all influencing factors. Among them, the original family environment variables all originate from the 2014 life course survey. The determinants of health are similar to those of educational achievements. In addition to the above factors, education, marriage, family economic conditions and living conditions are also determinants of health [ 29 ].

The level of health can be described in two ways: one is through a self-assessment of health; the other is to break up health into physical health and mental health. Physical health can be characterized using biomarker indicators, that is, dimension reduction in blood test indicators. The dimension reduction method is shown in Equation (1) [ 30 ]:

where x represents the biomarker indicator vector; μ ( x ) is its mean vector; and S denotes the covariance matrix of biomarker indicators. Meanwhile, one can also count the frequency of blood test indicators exceeding the threshold value according to the threshold value of each blood test indicator and calculate the risk score. The psychological health risk can be calculated using the test results of the psychological scale. The blood test indicators, their thresholds and the psychological scale are shown in Table 2 . The blood examination indicators are from the 2011 and 2015 surveys, while the self-assessment health and psychological surveys have been implemented in four surveys (in the blood test data in 2011, the indicator cystatin C was often missing, so it was not used as an indicator in the dimension reduction in blood test indicators). For life satisfaction, in addition to the above factors, health and education are influencing factors. Education, self-assessment of health, psychological scale, life satisfaction and family living standard indicators are all from the follow-up survey in 2018.

Blood test indicators and psychological scale.

Meanwhile, the life course survey also recorded whether the respondents had often been bullied by other classmates during their school days. Similar to domestic violence, campus bullying can also harm the physical and mental health of minors, so it is necessary to take campus bullying as a control variable. The control variable assignment method is shown in Table 3 .

Interpreted, explanatory and control variables.

2.2.2. Empirical Model

As variables are exogenous, and education level is an ordered variable, linear model is used for estimation [ 31 ]. The empirical model of educational achievement is shown in Equation (2):

where the control variables X include campus bullying, demographic variables and native family variables. The empirical model of the self-assessment of health and life satisfaction is shown in Equation (3):

where the control variables X ′ include campus bullying, demographic statistics, native family variables and variables reflecting the quality of family life. Self-rated health and life satisfaction are both subjective indicators, and there is a causal relationship between them, so they are built into a simultaneous equation model. As self-rated health and life satisfaction are ordered variables, Equation (3) is a bivariate ordered variable model. Health is further divided into two dimensions: physical health and mental health. As physical health and mental health are mutually causal, a simultaneous equation model is also used to quantify the impact of domestic violence on health:

Different from Equation (3), the indicators reflecting physical health (DM), risk scores (Risk) and depression scores (Depr) can be regarded as continuous variables, while life satisfaction is an ordered variable, so Equation (4) is a mixed structure model. In quantitative research, the ordered probit/logit model and the simple linear regression model have consistency in the direction and significance of parameter estimates, with the latter being more intuitive and convenient to explain. Therefore, many studies directly use the OLS estimation ordered choice variable model [ 32 , 33 ], so they can also directly use the seemingly unrelated regression estimator (Equations (2)–(5)).

3. Empirical Research

The empirical research includes three main parts: First, the 2018 cross-sectional data are taken as the sample to quantify the impact of domestic violence on personal educational achievements. For the middle-aged and elderly aged 45 and above, the education level was finalized, and the 2018 cross-sectional data can be used as the sample to retain the observation object to the maximum extent. Second, the seemingly unrelated regression model is used to estimate the simultaneous equation of the self-assessment of health and life satisfaction. The sample data are panel data composed of 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018 survey data. Finally, health is refined into physical health and mental health dimensions, and simultaneous equations are estimated through seemingly unrelated regression. The sample data are panel data composed of 2011 and 2015 survey data.

3.1. Domestic Violence and Educational Achievements

Equation (2) is estimated based on sample data. The estimated results are shown in Table 4 , which lists the estimated results of the OLS and ordered probit/logit models at the same time. According to the estimation results of the three types of models, at the 1% significance level, domestic violence significantly reduces individual educational achievements. Taking the OLS estimation results as an example, if one unit is added to the domestic violence index, the education level of individuals will decrease by 0.1318 levels. The interpretation of the estimated results of the ordered probit model requires the help of marginal effects. Based on the estimated results of the ordered probit model, the marginal effects of education level on the average value of the domestic violence index ∂ P ( E d u = κ ) / ∂ V ¯ can be estimated, in turn. The estimated results are shown in Figure 3 .

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Marginal effect and probability ratio of education level on domestic violence index.

Note: Robust standard deviation in brackets; *** p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05, * p < 0.1; the estimated result of the tangent point value is omitted.

It can be seen from the estimation results of the marginal effect that when the domestic violence index takes the average value, the marginal effect of the probability value P ( E d u = 4 ) (being educated to graduate from primary school) on the domestic violence index is 0.0056, and for other levels of education, the marginal effect is significantly less than 0. Therefore, it can be seen that domestic violence significantly reduces educational achievements after primary school graduation.

To intuitively explain the estimation results of the ordered logit model, we can also use the generalized ordered logit model in addition to the probability ratio. The generalized ordered logit model converts the ordered logit model into several logit models, which is consistent with the above. Typical primary school graduation, junior high school graduation, senior high school graduation, technical secondary school graduation, junior college graduation and undergraduate graduation are selected as the threshold for model transformation; that is, the impact of the domestic violence index on the probability value P ( E d u ≥ k | X ) ( k = 4 , 5 , ⋯ , 9 ) is mainly examined, with the estimation results of the probability ratio shown in Figure 3 . It can be seen from the estimated results of the probability ratio that, if the domestic violence index increases by 1 unit, the probability ratio of attaining primary school graduation and above will decrease by 13.42%, the probability ratio of attaining junior high school graduation and above will decrease by 13.72% and the probability ratios of attaining high school graduation, technical secondary school graduation, junior college graduation, undergraduate graduation and above will decrease by 21.11, 16.94, 14.45 and 17.61%, respectively. According to the estimation results of the OLS estimation, the ordered probit/logit model and the generalized logit model, domestic violence significantly reduces the educational achievements of respondents.

The domestic violence index is composed of four dimensions, and the impact of each dimension on educational achievements may be inconsistent. In view of this, in the heterogeneity analysis, the domestic violence index is subdivided into four dimensions, and the corresponding estimation results are shown in Table 5 . It can be seen from the above estimation results that the OLS estimation and the coefficient estimation of the ordered probit/logit model are consistent in significance and sign, so the OLS estimation results of the linear model are used to explain the practical meaning of the model. At the 1% confidence level, among the four dimensions, only the emotional abuse dimension has a significant negative impact on educational achievement; that is, compared with the other three dimensions, emotional abuse has the most prominent negative impact on educational achievement. Specifically, if the emotional abuse index increased by 1 unit, the education level decreased by 0.0759. This is because emotional abuse will affect children’s cognitive development and impair their memory and cognitive ability to a certain extent, making them likely to encounter difficulties in learning, thus affecting their academic performance and then their education level. From another perspective, scholars have found that the level of education will adjust the impact of domestic violence on individuals, so the level of education is an important factor to consider the impact of domestic violence on individuals [ 34 ].

Results of the dimensional heterogeneity analysis.

Note: Robust standard deviation in brackets; *** p < 0.01, * p < 0.1; the estimated results of control variables and tangent point values are omitted.

3.2. Domestic Violence, Health and Life Satisfaction

Similar to the above, this part also uses the linear model for empirical research. The Breusch–Pagan test shows that the residual terms of the simultaneous equations are correlated, so the seemingly uncorrelated panel model is used to estimate the simultaneous equations. The estimation results are shown in Table 6 . At the 1% confidence level, the domestic violence index has a significant negative impact on the self-assessment health level and life satisfaction. If the domestic violence index increases by 1 unit, the self-assessment health level decreases by 0.0320, and life satisfaction decreases by 0.0948. Furthermore, the domestic violence index is divided into four levels. For health self-evaluation, at the 1% confidence level, only the emotional abuse dimension has a significant negative impact on the health self-evaluation level, which increases by 1 unit, while the self-evaluation health level decreases by 0.0267. In the life satisfaction equation, at the 1 or 5% confidence level, injury from violence, negligent care, emotional abuse and witnessing domestic violence all have significant negative impacts on life satisfaction. For each increase in the index of each dimension, life satisfaction decreases by 0.0240, 0.0189, 0.0314, and 0.0216 levels, in turn. In general, domestic violence significantly reduces the self-rated health level and life satisfaction. This is because domestic violence causes great harm to the victims, directly damages the physical and mental health of the victims and causes long-term mental tension, anxiety and fear in the victims. At the same time, because domestic violence makes it difficult for victims to feel warmth from family, life satisfaction will be greatly reduced.

Estimated results of domestic violence, health and life satisfaction.

Note: Robust standard deviation in brackets; *** p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05; the estimated results of other control variables and tangent point values are omitted.

3.3. Further Discussion on Domestic Violence and Health

On the basis of the above, health is further divided into physical health and mental health, characterized by biomarker indicators and depression score indicators. The corresponding estimation results are shown in Table 7 . At the 1% confidence level, the domestic violence index has a significant positive impact on depression scores; at the 5% confidence level, the domestic violence index significantly increases the abnormal frequency of blood test indicators. Specifically, in the simultaneous equation of DM and depression scores, if the domestic violence index increased by 1 unit, the depression score increased by 0.6591 points; in the simultaneous equation of the abnormal frequency of blood test index and depression scores, if the domestic violence index increased by 1 unit, the abnormal frequency of blood test index increased by 0.0532 units, and the depression score increased by 0.6617 points. Furthermore, the domestic violence index is divided into four dimensions. At the 1% confidence level, the three indexes of injury from violence, emotional abuse and witnessing domestic violence significantly improved the depression score but have no significant impact on the two health risk indicators based on blood test indicators. Therefore, on the whole, it can be determined that domestic violence increases the subjective mental health risk.

Estimated results of domestic violence and physical and mental health.

3.4. Robustness Test

Calculating the domestic violence index through dimension reduction can quantify the degree of domestic violence experienced by the interviewees in general, but it will also lose some of the indicator information. In view of this, in the robustness test, directly using the secondary indicators as explanatory variables is proposed, with the estimated results shown in Table 8 . In the education decision equation, at the 1% confidence level, only the relationship with the mother has a significant negative impact on education level. In the simultaneous equation of self-rated health and life satisfaction, for self-rated health, at the 5% confidence level, only the relationship with the mother has a significant negative impact. For life satisfaction, at the 1% confidence level, whether the father has injuries from violence, whether the mother has invested enough in taking care of herself and the relationship with the father have significant negative effects. In the two simultaneous equations of health risk, seven secondary indicators have no significant impact on the health risk indicators based on blood test indicators. For subjective mental health, at the 1 or 5% confidence level, whether the mother behaved violently, the relationship with the mother and whether domestic violence was witnessed have significant positive effects on the depression score. In general, the secondary indicators in the dimension of emotional abuse have a particularly prominent impact on educational achievement, life satisfaction and mental health, which verifies the main conclusions of the empirical study.

Estimation results of the robustness test.

4. Conclusions and Policy Recommendations

Domestic violence includes not only physical violence but also mental violence with regard to neglect, emotional abuse, etc. Therefore, this study estimates a domestic violence index from the four aspects of injury from violence, negligent care, emotional abuse and witnessing domestic violence, and then takes the CHARLS (2011, 2013, 2015, 2018) and the “life course” survey as sample data to assess the impact of domestic violence on personal education, health and life satisfaction, in turn. The main conclusions are as follows: (1) Domestic violence significantly reduced the respondents’ educational achievements. Compared with the three dimensions of injury from violence, negligent care and witnessing domestic violence, emotional abuse had the most significant negative impact on educational achievements. (2) Domestic violence significantly reduced the self-rated health level and life satisfaction and significantly increased the mental health risk of the respondents.

The above conclusions have important policy implications for optimizing social governance strategies. Domestic violence has far-reaching negative impacts on personal education, health and life satisfaction. To prevent domestic violence and heal the trauma caused, based on its complexity and concealment, we believe that its long-term impact on individuals should be approached from the following four perspectives.

First, a domestic violence monitoring system should be built. Domestic violence has the characteristics of being long-term and repeated, so it is necessary to find the families involved and prevent recurrence in a timely manner. On one hand, the tracking mechanism should be strengthened: for people with low educational achievements and low physical and mental satisfaction (especially young people), society, schools and families should be vigilant in tracing domestic violence back to the source to prevent long-term negative impacts. On the other hand, the feedback mechanism should be strengthened: for those who have suffered from domestic violence, the probability of being subjected to repeated domestic violence is greatly increased. Therefore, they should be encouraged to express their concerns freely, and in the future, a “one-to-one” follow-up mechanism, and a “fixed + random” feedback mechanism should be established to strengthen the ability of victims to provide feedback and communicate with the relevant departments.

Second, the harm caused by emotional abuse and other mental abuse should be confronted. On one hand, the consciousness of the victims needs to be awakened. Domestic violence refers not only to physical violence but also emotional abuse, neglect and other spiritual mistreatment. However, compared with physical violence, the biggest dilemma surrounding domestic psychological abuse is that the victims do not comprehend it themselves but instead feel extreme emotional pain and depression. Therefore, it is necessary to make the content and methods of domestic psychological abuse known, so that the parties who are unknowingly experiencing it will become aware and safeguard their rights. On the other hand, we should establish a working mechanism for linking the authorities that deal with domestic violence. The difficulty in determining if domestic violence is occurring is that it is not easy to obtain evidence, and many victims are unable to enter the judicial process. Therefore, the judicial department should link with women’s federations, neighborhood committees, village committees and other departments to deal with cases of psychological abuse flexibly and quickly, integrating evidence collection, assistance and protection.

Third, attention should be paid to the long-term impact of domestic violence on individuals. On one hand, many perpetrators do not realize that domestic violence is a crime; on the other hand, they ignore the long-term harm to individuals caused by domestic violence. Therefore, we should not only enhance the public’s legal understanding of domestic violence but also use new media to publicize the serious harm that can be caused to individuals as a result of domestic violence. Furthermore, family moral education needs to be strengthened, and the establishment of harmonious families advocated.

Fourth, it is necessary for domestic violence to be prevented at the source. Accordingly, we must go deep into communities to facilitate an understanding of the legal issues related to family disputes [ 35 , 36 ], not only to issue personal safety protection orders to the victims but also to use laws and regulations to intervene and correct the behavior of the perpetrators [ 37 ]. Finally, we need to fully investigate and establish a family violence litigation protection base and form a “one-stop” litigation processing procedure that is simple and smooth, with privacy protections.

Funding Statement

This research was funded by the Hunan Health Economics and Information Society, grant number 2022B07.

Author Contributions

L.B. and P.Y. generated the idea and study design, collected data, and carried out the data analysis and write up. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Data availability statement, conflicts of interest.

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Disclaimer/Publisher’s Note: The statements, opinions and data contained in all publications are solely those of the individual author(s) and contributor(s) and not of MDPI and/or the editor(s). MDPI and/or the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to people or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content.

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