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Children, Violence, and Trauma: Addressing Violence in the Home

For far too many children in this country, home is not a safe haven. In fiscal year 2011, child protection agencies documented 676,569 victims of child abuse and neglect.1 Children also report living in homes where they are exposed to violence such as verbal threats, breaking things, pushing, hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, and severe beatings. Violence in the home also includes parental assaults on one another and on siblings and sibling assaults on siblings and other family members. According to the National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence, at least one-fourth (26 percent) of children in the United States are exposed to some form of family violence in their lifetimes.2

Violence in the home—specifically domestic violence targeting an intimate partner—is a critical risk factor for child maltreatment. Youth who are exposed to partner violence are 3 to 9 times as likely to be maltreated as youth who are not exposed to this violence.3 Children who live in violent homes also are at far greater risk for polyvictimization (i.e., exposure to multiple types of violence in a given year.)4

Children can suffer significant and profound consequences as a result of exposure to violence in their homes.5 This trauma can manifest in many ways, even among children who do not directly witness violence but are keenly aware of conflict, tension, and danger in their homes.6 Children may have nightmares or intrusive memories. They may have trouble paying attention in school or completing assignments. Teens may avoid social relationships or turn to alcohol or drug use. For children whose families face additional challenges, such as mental illness or substance abuse, the physical, psychological, and emotional consequences can be even more severe.7 Child maltreatment and violence at home also put children at increased risk for later delinquency and violence.8

Early intervention is key to healing children affected by violence and minimizing the effects of the adverse consequences they may experience. In Oklahoma, the SafeCare model is one of many approaches to home visitation that helps reduce child maltreatment in families. In Georgia, Caminar Latino, Inc., offers an approach that addresses Latina mothers’ concerns about their children’s fears by providing support groups and activities for children of all ages.

In every community, there are agencies, organizations, and professionals that each play a critical role in identifying children who are exposed to violence in their homes and taking the necessary steps to protect them and help them heal:

Communities throughout the country have found various ways to encourage communication and collaboration among allied agencies and professionals, including cross-training, multidisciplinary teams, and information-sharing agreements and protocols. Despite their different (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives, all parties are working toward a common goal: ensuring that children are protected and that families receive the services they need. The King County Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Coordinated Response team in Seattle, Washington, featured in this video, is one example.

Related Resources


National Center for Trauma-Informed Care
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Web Sites

Child Welfare Information Gateway
Defending Childhood Initiative
Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness
Medical Home for Children Exposed to Violence
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Children and Domestic Violence
Promising Futures: Best Practices for Serving Children, Youth, and Parents Experiencing Domestic Violence
Safe Start Center
Supporting Evidence Based Home Visiting
Your Child Development and Behavior Resources: Sibling Abuse


Honor Our Voices: Children’s Perspectives of Domestic Violence (Learning Module)
National SafeCare Training and Research Center


Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (AF–CBT)
As a Matter of Fact: The Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Child/Adolescent Well-Being
Child Development—Community Policing: Partnerships in a Climate of Violence
COPS Protecting Children (CD)
King County Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Coordinated Response Guideline 2010
Multidisciplinary Teams and Collaboration in Child Abuse Intervention: A Selected Bibliography
Nurse-Family Partnerships: From Trials to International Replication (Interview)
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy With At-Risk Families
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children Affected by Sexual Abuse or Trauma

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administra­tion on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2012). Child Maltreatment 2011, p. 19. Available from

2 S. Hamby, D. Finkelhor, H. Turner, and R. Ormrod (2011). Children’s Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Other Family Violence. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

3 S. Hamby, D. Finkelhor, H. Turner, and R. Ormrod (2010). The overlap of witnessing partner violence with child maltreatment and other victimizations in a nationally representative survey of youth. Child Abuse & Neglect 34: 734–741.

4 D. Finkelhor, R.K. Ormrod, H.A. Turner, and M.A. Holt (2009). Pathways to poly-victimization. Child Maltreatment 14(4): 316–329.

5 National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Children and Domestic Violence.

6 S. Holt, H. Buckley, and S. Whelan (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: a review of the literature. Child Abuse and Neglect, 32(8), pp. 797–810.

7 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Accessed September 23, 2013:

8 Institute of Medicine and National Research Council (2013). New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Accessed September 23, 2013:; S. Nofzinger and D. Kurtz (2005). Violent lives: A lifestyle model linking exposure to violence to juvenile violent offending. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42, pp. 3–26.

9 Institute of Medicine and National Research Council (2013). New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Accessed September 23, 2013: