Fact Sheet: Effects of Domestic Violence of Partners and Children
Physical injuries (some long-lasting)
Poorer health in general
More psychological problems such as anxiety and depression
Poorer thinking ability such as problem solving and decision making
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms
Missed work time and poorer work performance
More likely to develop addictions
Decrease in parenting warmth and consistent discipline
Increase in harsh discipline and psychological control of children
On children who witness partner violence:
More anxiety and depression
As teenagers more aggression toward dating partners, friends and family members
Trauma symptoms and depression in adulthood
Greater levels of contempt, hostility, and withdrawal
If parents are arguing over children (for example, over child discipline) when there is partner violence the impact on children is greater
The bottom line: any act of physical violence in the home causes immediate and long-term damage both
to the recipient of that violence and also to children who witness it.
The longer the arguing, tension and violence goes on the more it affects everybody in the family. So all
that arguing, tension and violence needs to stop –NOW.
This information above comes from the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project (Hamel, 2013).
What happens to a child who is beaten by his mother/father?
What happens to a kid who watches his/her mother getting beaten by dad?
What happens to a grown man or woman who is terrorized during a rape or domestic violence episode?
The answer is pretty much the same in all three situations: that child or adult often suffers serious and
long-lasting changes to their brain.
First, an almond shaped part of your brain called the amygdala becomes overactive. The amygdala is
part of our early warning system. It yells danger, danger, danger when something happens that might
Second, a small, older part of the cortex (The layer of tissue that covers your brain) called the
hippocampus shrinks, losing perhaps 12% of its volume. The hippocampus is very important in checking
out reality – is there anything right now happening that really is dangerous or is it a false alarm?
In most people the amygdala and hippocampus work well as a team. The amygdala doesn’t sounds too
many alarms and the hippocampus can stop the alarm bell from ringing if the amygdala does raise a
false alarm. But that’s not the case when someone has been traumatized. Now the amygdala keeps
shouting out false alarms while the hippocampus becomes too weak to shut them off. No wonder, then,
that the Afghanistan veteran throws himself under the table when he hears a car backfiring or a 12 year
old child who watches his parents fight every night develops night terrors.
Even one single terrifying event can cause this kind of brain damage. So can longer-term exposure to family violence. The psychological/physical condition associated with trauma is called PTSD (Post-
traumatic stress disorder). Some common symptoms include sleep problems, inability to concentrate, inability to quit thinking about or reliving the scary event, avoidance of situations that remind the person of the event, emotional numbness, hopelessness about the future, and irritability, angry outbursts and aggressive behavior. Obviously, then, someone who has suffered trauma is at risk to commit acts of domestic violence, often because that person has mistakenly thought someone was saying or doing something threatening to that individual.
Can the brain heal these wounds? In other words, could someone who has been traumatize ever again
have a “normal” brain with a less reactive amygdala and a regrown hippocampus? Nobody knows for
sure but every day a child or adult is free from excessive anger and aggression helps them become
someone who feels safe inside, someone whose sleep is full of dreams instead of nightmares.