Domestic violence – the effect on children and young people

Why is domestic violence an issue in safeguarding children and young people?

Domestic violence is a significant child protection issue and is seen as one of the main causes of risk to the safety of children. In 90% of cases, children were in the same or the next room, and in 50% of cases, children were directly abused. Witnessing domestic violence can have significant short and long term effects on children’s development, resulting, for example, in eating and sleeping disorders, and emotional and behavioural problems.

What is it?

Domestic violence/abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,  violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

  • This definition includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.
  • Whilst this is not a legislative change, the definition will send a clear message to victims about what does constitute domestic violence and abuse

Long term effects often include poor educational attainment, anti-social behaviour, youth offending, high levels of teenage pregnancy, and alcohol and drug misuse. As children become adults, they are more prone to becoming victims or perpetrators themselves.  Victims living with domestic violence are often unable to protect their children from the direct and indirect effects of abuse, despite their best efforts.

Have you been affected by domestic violence?

If you have been affected by domestic violence, Safer Merton has information and advice:

Merton Council Domestic Violence webpage

Links for more information