Domestic abuse Signs, indicators and effects
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.
Things you may notice
If you're worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour.
- suddenly behaves differently
- problems sleeping
- eating disorders
- wets the bed
- soils clothes
- takes risks
- misses school
- changes in eating habits
- obsessive behaviour
- thoughts about suicide
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.
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.
"At the first session I got to meet other young people... I started to feel a bit more normal and realised for the first time that I wasn’t alone."
Read JB’s story
Further information and advice
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.
Family issues children experience
Parental mental health
Parental substance misuse
Separation, divorce and contact
Stanley, N. (2011) Children experiencing domestic violence: a research review. Totnes, Devon: Research in Practice.