Domestic Violence & Children: The Effect on the Learning Environment

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Over the last twenty years, researchers have increased our awareness and understanding of the impact of domestic violence on children and its effect on their physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social development: studies have shown it can decrease a child’s IQ and influence the emotional systems in the brain.[1] While nobody thinks domestic violence or the witnessing of it is good for kids, this information has helped to solidify the need to better understand how this violence can impact learning and the learning environment. Let’s begin with some facts:

•  On average, nearly 20 people in the US are physically abused by an intimate partner per minute. This equates to more than 10 million women and men per year.[2]
•  Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.[3]
•  More than 15 million American children live in homes where domestic violence has happened at least once.[4]
•  One in 15 children are exposed to domestic or intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are witnesses to violence in the home.[5]

Behavioral Response of Children Who Witness Domestic Violence

More than half of women who experience domestic violence have children under the age of 12 in the home. These kids are often the silent or unseen victims of domestic violence.  Children exposed to this kind of violence may also experience emotional abuse, neglect or violence in their community.[6] They may experience anxiety or withdraw from others or begin acting out in violent ways. They may have short attention spans, experience developmental delays, and may struggle to express themselves. All of these may manifest as antisocial and self-harming behavior, impulsiveness, bullying, depression, substance abuse, or low attendance as they deal with what is happening at home.[7] The effects of domestic violence on children have also been linked to poor school performance, difficulty completing school work, inability to concentrate, and trouble with social skills.[8]

How Educators Can Help Children of Domestic Violence

Some students may be resilient in the face of violence and be able to adapt in response. Some will not and may experience distress that may be obvious or completely unseen in the classroom.[9] One way for adults to help children coping with traumas to heal is to provide them support and guidance in the aftermath of domestic violence. School counselors, therapists or other mental health professionals can provide ongoing support through a variety of programs and services.

Domestic violence is destructive for both the abused and the abuser. Its tendency to be passed down generation to generation makes it crucial that we develop effective methods for helping traumatized children in abusive homes and finding ways to combating abusive behaviors. When you see troubled behaviors, educators are encouraged to ask “what happened to you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?”

Asking these questions isn’t easy. We know; we ask tough questions of students, parents, and educators every day in schools across the United States. Through the Pride Learning Environment Survey, a student evaluation tool for grades 6-12, we can offer insights into the intersection of risk and academic success in the education setting. Its efficient examination of current issues gives hard data through student questionnaires.

Mental health issues and trauma are significant issues facing today’s youth. As reported in our 2015-2016 national data set, 20.9% of middle school students and 21.0% of high school students reported threatening to harm another student – how many of these behaviors are a result of exposure to violence at home? Related points from the same data set showed that 5.1% of 6th-8th-grade students “think of suicide often or a lot,” with the corresponding percentage jumping to 8.0% for students in 9th-12th grade. Digging deeper into these numbers can help reveal why children are struggling with these feelings, and help schools and their communities find solutions.

Since 1980, Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data that can be used by educators, parents, and others at the local school and community level to study and monitor violent, threatening, and bullying behaviors, and student mental health. We offer four different scientifically proven student surveys that are designed to measure various aspects of student behavior and perceptions related to mental health and more. Our CTC Youth Community Survey was originally developed by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and uses the risk and protective factor model approach to assess youth attitudes towards substance abuse, bullying, and mental health, among other things.

The benefit of choosing a survey company is that we can help you get answers to the difficult questions. In addition to providing reliable and valid school survey tools, Pride Surveys also offers reporting, analysis, and support services to help our clients learn how to use their data to be effective change agents in their communities and schools.

Please browse the different types of scalable student surveys we offer and find out why more than 13.9 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions about our school climate surveys? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.




[1] “Exposure to Domestic Violence and its Effect on Children’s Brain Development and Functioning.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[2] “Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence & Stalking.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[3] “Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence & Stalking.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[4] “Estimating the Number of American Children Living in Partner-Violent Families.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[5] “National Statistics.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[6] “Domestic Violence.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[7] “The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[8] “What is Childhood Trauma, Trauma Types, Domestic Violence, Effects.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

[9] “Best practices for supporting and educating students who have experienced domestic violence or sexual victimization.” Retrieved 29 October 2018 at

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