Cited in – How does domestic violence affect kids?

l_ParentsFeb2014_coverI was asked about the impact of Domestic Violence on children for In her post, “How does domestic violence affect kids?”, Tamekia Reece catalogues many of the negative consequences violence can have on children.

A family affair

“Domestic violence is a family affair and is impossible to hide when it occurs, even if children are sleeping or otherwise not present,” says Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. Even if kids don’t witness the incident itself, they can still feel the tension, they might hear the violence, and they’re likely to notice the aftermath including injuries or the distance between mom and dad, she says.

Impact on mental health

Obviously there are any number of negative mental and emotional effects of abuse.

“Children may experience fear, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, an inability to control their emotions, and suicidal feelings as a result of witnessing violence between adult caregivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Worrying that she is at fault can take a toll on a child’s mental and emotional well-being. Kids often feel guilty for not being able to help the situation or for sparking an abusive outburst, says Dr. Clark.

Children’s relationship with parents

“Research shows that infants exposed to family violence may have difficulty developing attachments with their caregivers, and an older child’s interactions with parents could change as well. Dr. Clark says some kids may feel rage at the abusive parent, anger at the victim for not being able to avoid the abuse or protect herself, or pity for the abused parent. These feelings could cause the child to withdraw or lash out at one or both parents, be disobedient, become excessively clingy, or take on a parental role towards the abused parent.

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD


  1. Leah on January 29, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Excellent summary of what can happen to children exposed to domestic violence! It’s so sad!

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Leah. I agree, it is so sad, and so common. Getting help is the key.