Impacts of abuse on children and youth

It is important to note that not all children and youth experience their exposure to violence in the same way.

Women in abusive relationships typically work hard to shield their children from the abuse and to keep them safe.

The impact of abuse on children and youth will be different depending on their age, gender and developmental stage.

Examples of some of the long- and short-term effects on children who have been exposed to violence in the home are:

  • Many children experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including fear, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and intrusive memories of the abuse, anger outbursts and hyper-arousal.
  • Children who are exposed to the abuse of a woman show higher rates of aggression against their mothers, their teachers and their friends. This is particularly true among boys but is also true for girls.
  • It is common to see emotional problems, such as depression, worry, school refusal, withdrawal from social interactions, and difficulty separating from their mother.
  • Many children suffer physical complaints such as body aches and pains, and illnesses with no known medical causes.
  • School achievement and social development are frequently compromised, as is the development of social competence.
  • Often there are more subtle symptoms, such as inappropriate attitudes about the use of violence in resolving conflicts, inappropriate attitudes about violence against women, or condoning violence in intimate and dating relationships. Other symptoms are hypersensitivity about problems at home and a sense that they are to blame for the violence.