Children's exposure to domestic and family violence: key issues and responses

9 December 2015

This paper provides an overview of the prevalence of domestic and family violence, the effects of domestic and family violence on children (including the co-occurrence of domestic and family violence with child abuse), the intergenerational transmission of violence and the implications of these for preventing domestic and family violence. It provides an overview of insights from studies that have sought to determine the various psychosocial and long-term health and development outcomes in children via longitudinal research, meta-analyses and experiential studies, as well as findings from studies that have examined children's experiences more directly via qualitative interviews and surveys. The paper will also examine the literature on evidence-based responses to children exposed to domestic and family violence.

Key messages

  • Significant numbers of Australian children are exposed to domestic and family violence.
  • Domestic and family violence affects children’s physical and mental wellbeing, development and schooling, and is the leading cause of children’s homelessness in Australia.
  • Domestic and family violence often co-occurs with child abuse including child sexual abuse. This co-occurrence needs particular attention in policy and practice.
  • Policy responses to children exposed to domestic and family violence are complicated by the intersecting policy jurisdictions of child protection, family law and domestic violence sectors.
  • Exposure to domestic and family violence alone does not seem to be a factor in future perpetration. Recent multi-country studies suggest that gender roles, stereotypes and violence-supportive attitudes are important for understanding the correlation.
  • Therapeutic responses to children exposed to domestic and family violence should include working with mothers (or the non-offending parent) and children to strengthen attachment and should be trauma-informed.
  • Primary prevention of domestic and family violence with children and young people is crucial and there is a promising evidence base for the effectiveness of school-based programs.
  • Prevention strategies with children should be universally delivered and work to help children be critical of gender norms and violence-supportive attitudes, and equip them with the skills to form healthy and respectful relationships in adulthood.

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Cite this document

Suggested Citation

Monica Campo, 2015, Children's exposure to domestic and family violence: key issues and responses, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia, viewed 31 May 2016, <http://apo.org.au/node/60548>.

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