How Domestic Abuse Affects Children

Children who see domestic abuse, or are a victim of it, may develop health or social problems. Domestic abuse can be when a person hits, kicks or slaps a victim. It can be rape or other kinds of sexual abuse. It can be name calling, shaming or threats. Abuse can affect children right away and affect them later as teens and adults.

Children exposed to domestic abuse may have problems in school. They may have lower test scores or problems with learning. They may have problems resolving conflicts with other students. They may seem hostile. They may also have trouble making or keeping friends and interacting with adults.

Abuse can change the way children act toward and respond to other people. Some things may feel or be out of their control. They may become:

  • A bed wetter or have bad dreams.
  • A drug or alcohol user.
  • Anxious.
  • Depressed.
  • Fearful.
  • Hyperactive.
  • Oppositional.
  • Violent.

Later in life children who see or are victims of abuse may:

  • Abuse others.
  • Abuse their children.
  • Become a victim of abuse.
  • Have problems with alcohol or drugs.
  • Have problems with keeping a job or home.

Adults exposed to abuse as children may have ongoing health problems. These problems may involve:

  • Asthma.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart.
  • Joints.
  • General pain.
  • Kidney or bladder.
  • Stomach or bowel.

The good news is that children can be resilient. Abuse does not affect all children in the same way. With the right kind of support children who live with abuse can become healthy adults.

To find the domestic abuse program in Pennsylvania nearest to you, visit, and click on Find Help or use the Find Help map on the homepage.

To reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-SAFE (TTY 1-800-787-3224). To reach the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline, call 1-866-331-9474 (TTY 1-866-331-8453) or text “loveis” to 22522.