Children are resilient. Some witness domestic abuse and mature into well-adjusted adults with few, if any, behavioral problems. Others internalize abuse and become abusers themselves. There are even some who hold on to the role of being a victim for the rest of their lives because they know no other reality. These effects often remain true even when the children witness abuse rather than experience it themselves.
At least, so says a study referenced by USA Today. The article begins by addressing a more direct form of abuse children may suffer from even when they are not necessarily the intended victim. Pregnant women who are being abused are more likely to face complications, such as rectal bleeding. Some abused women also end up giving birth to children who face a number of complications themselves, such as muscular conditions, breathing problems and development issues.
Scientists who have studied the effects of domestic abuse on children find that even while sleeping and while in the womb, children already begin to process that violence. This correlates with brain damage in their infant years. This brain damage can affect learning ability. For children who witness or experience the abuse, the effects are even worse. These children become as likely to develop severe PTSD as soldiers returning from combat.
Researchers estimate that up to 15 million children are exposed to some form of domestic violence in the home. This includes not just physical violence, but also verbal and emotional abuse. Some children may even witness or experience neglect.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, consider seeking external assistance before filing for a divorce. Once you file for divorce or seek primary or sole custody of the children, your abuser may retaliate. This can put you and the children at risk. To reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1−800−799−7233.