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Charmed and Dangerous Factsheet 3: The effects of domestic violence on children

All family members experience the effects of domestic and family violence. Living with violence can have as much of an impact on children as the victims themselves. Children who see abuse or live in a violent household experience fear, intimidation and threat to safety like you do.

This wheel shows how domestic violence affects children.

How Violence Affects Children


  • Inability to develop social skills
  • Can’t have friends over because of the need to hide the violence
  • Keeping harmful “secrets”
  • Not trusting of adults


  • Doubting reality
  • Fear of doing wrong
  • Inconsistent limits and expectations by caregiver
  • Fear of expressing feelings
  • Inability to learn at school
  • Low self-esteem


  • Children may feel guilt & shame and think it’s their fault
  • May regress to early stages of development
  • Demanding & withdrawn
  • Crave or need attention


  • Putting children in fear by using looks, loud actions, loud gestures, loud voice, smashing things, destroying property
  • Fear of physical safety


  • Copy abuser’s dominant & abusive behaviour
  • Copy victimised passive and submissive behaviour
  • Unable to express feelings or who they are


  • Shame of body
  • Feeling threatened & fearful of their sexuality
  • Learning inappropriate sexual talk and behaviour
  • Children having access to pornographic magazines & movies


  • Learn to manipulate because of their own safety issues due to effect of violence in family
  • Expressing anger in a way that is violent, abusive, or not expressing anger at all because of their own fear


  • Being put in the middle of fights
  • Children may take on roles & responsibilities of parents and give up being children
  • Children seen and not heard
  • Children being used to solve conflicts, asking them to take sides

More information and help

In an emergency, call the police on 000 or 112 from mobiles.

For information, court advocacy and referral for women in domestic violence situations and assistance with getting an ADVO call the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service on 1800 WDVCAS or 1800 938 227.

For legal advice, assistance, referral and representation as well as social work support and financial counselling for victims of domestic and family violence call the Legal Aid NSW Domestic Violence Unit on 1800 979 529.

Family Violence Law Help is a website with easy-to-understand legal information about AVOs, family law and child protection. The information can be translated into different languages.


This factsheet is a general guide to the law. You should not rely on it for legal advice and we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about your situation. The information is correct at the time of publication, however it may change.

This factsheet is an excerpt from the booklet Charmed and Dangerous: A woman’s guide to reclaiming a healthy relationship, an initiative of the Tweed Shire Women’s Services Inc.

This factsheet is available in Arabic, Dari/Farsi, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese.

© DECEMBER 2021 Legal Aid NSW