It's often difficult to tell if domestic abuse is happening, because it usually takes place in the family home and abusers can act very differently when other people are around.

Children who witness domestic abuse may:

  • become aggressive
  • display anti-social behaviour
  • suffer from depression or anxiety
  • not do as well at school - due to difficulties at home or disruption of moving to and from refuges.

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for help, advice and support.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern

Things you may notice

If you're worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour. 

  • withdrawn
  • suddenly behaves differently
  • anxious
  • clingy
  • depressed
  • aggressive
  • problems sleeping
  • eating disorders
  • wets the bed
  • soils clothes
  • takes risks
  • misses school
  • changes in eating habits
  • obsessive behaviour
  • nightmares
  • drugs
  • alcohol
  • self-harm
  • thoughts about suicide

If you're worried about a child, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse.

How domestic abuse affects children

Living in a home where there’s domestic abuse is harmful. It can have a serious impact on a child's behaviour and wellbeing.

Parents or carers may underestimate the effects of the abuse on their children because they don’t see what’s happening.

But children witnessing domestic abuse is recognised as 'significant harm' in law.

Domestic abuse can also be a sign that children are suffering another type of abuse or neglect (Stanley, 2011).

The effects can last into adulthood. But, once they're in a safer and more stable environment, most children are able to move on from the effects of witnessing domestic abuse.

Further information and advice

Who is affected

It doesn't matter what your age, race, gender or sexuality is - anyone can be affected by domestic abuse.
Find out more about who is affected

Keeping children safe

How to help keep children safe from domestic abuse
Keeping children safe from domestic abuse

Work or volunteer with children and families?

Visit NSPCC Learning for information, resources and training to help you safeguard and protect children and young people across the UK.

Go to NSPCC Learning

Family issues children experience

Parental mental health

Helping children living with parents with mental health problems.
Read more about parental mental health

Parental substance misuse

Supporting children living with parents who misuse alcohol and drugs.
Read more about parental substance misuse

Separation, divorce and contact

Even though the relationship has ended between the adults, their role as parents has not stopped. Know your rights and make sure children get the right support.
Get advice for parents


  1. Stanley, N. (2011) Children experiencing domestic violence: a research review. Totnes, Devon: Research in Practice.