How Abuse Effects Children

In Canada, it is estimated that 800,000 children are exposed to woman abuse each year. When children witness abuse they are receiving messages that violence is okay and therefore a normal part of a relationship, it is a way to resolve conflict and to gain power and control over another human being. The impact of witnessing abuse depends on the age and development stage of the child, the frequency and severity of the abuse along with the supports systems in place for the child.

child_upset01Children Learn What They Live

  • If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn
  • If children live with hostility, they learn to fight
  • If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive
  • If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves
  • If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy
  • If children live with jealously, they learn to feel envy
  • If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty
  • If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence
  • If children live with tolerance, they learn patience
  • If children live with praise, they learn appreciation
  • If children live with acceptance, they learn to love
  • If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves
  • If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal
  • If children live with sharing, they learn generosity
  • If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness
  • If children live with fairness, they learn justice
  • If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect
  • If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them
  • If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live~Dorothy Law Nolte

Children are affected by abuse on many different levels:

  • Emotionally (anxiety, anger, depression, low self-esteem)
  • Physically (difficulty sleeping/eating, health problems)
  • Socially (poor social skills, peer rejection)
  • Cognitively (developmental delays, poor school performance)
  • Behaviourally (aggression, tantrums, immaturity)

Typical Long-Term Effects of Woman Abuse on Children by Age

Adapted from Health Canada: A handbook for Health and Social Service Providers and Educators on Children Exposed to Woman Abuse/Family Violence, 1999.