Domestic violence is a pervasive, toxic cycle that impacts everybody differently. Victims of domestic violence may feel compelled to remain with their abuser to keep up appearances, provide a two-parent home for their children, or to avoid the potential of a legal battle. However, even if children aren’t directly targeted by abuse, they can carry the residual effects of abuse with them for decades.
Regression and Other Behavioral Problems
The immediately visible effects of domestic abuse depend a lot on the age of the child when the abuse started. When children experience abuse at a young age, they may regress to earlier stages of development. A child who’s been toilet trained for years may suddenly start having accidents, or a previously verbal child might return to babbling or baby talk. Children might refuse to do things they are capable of doing for themselves and become more needy or emotionally insecure.
Emotional and Psychological Trauma
Trauma is nearly inevitable when children witness a parent being abused. A child’s home life guides their development, and children in abusive households are deprived of a stable environment that fosters healthy growth.
Children who grow up with an abusive parent have one role model who uses violence and intimidation to their way and one role model who they may perceive to be helpless or weak. This dichotomy may make it difficult children to understand or express their emotions in a healthy way.
As children begin to understand what they experienced in their younger years, they may suffer enormous guilt for being unable to protect their victimized parent or feel anger at the victimized parent for not leaving sooner.
Repeating the Cycle of Violence
One of the most serious risks of growing up in an abusive household is the likelihood of repeating the cycle of abuse. Children who witness abuse are likely to believe that violence is an effective and appropriate way to resolve issues. Girls who see abuse may grow up believing that abuse is typical in romantic relationships and seek out men who replicate this pattern. Boys who grow up in abusive households may internalize the idea that violence is a suitable way to build affection and intimacy.
Emotional Difficulties and Disorders in Adulthood
The effects of abuse last long beyond the childhood years. When children reach adulthood, they may develop emotional or psychological disorders as a result of the unhealthy coping habits learned in childhood. They might be overly anxious to please, develop issues with anxiety or depression, struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, or show signs of PTSD.
Physical Health Symptoms
Since children struggle to verbalize their emotions, their feelings often materialize in physical ways. Kids exposed to abuse might experience headaches, stomachaches, issues with concentration, difficulty sleeping, or a lack of appetite.
Witnessing or being the target of abuse is dangerous for children in many different ways. Those seeking to find a new normal for their children and break the cycle of abuse can explore their legal options with a family law attorney.
Create a Healthy and Stable Home for Your Family
If you’re wondering how to get out of an abusive situation while protecting your rights, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney. Call the Coral Gables office of Carolan Family Law Firm, P.A. at (305) 358-2330 to schedule a consultation.