Signs of exposure to partner abuse

The effects of being exposed to domestic violence were for a long time underestimated. Recently, studies have shown that a child or teen exposed to partner abuse at home (whether they witness it or not) can suffer lifelong, debilitating effects.

Signs that a child or teen is exposed to domestic violence:

Appearance of neglect: Poor hygiene, missed appointments. Forgotten library books, lost assignments, non-existant lunches may indicate neglect at home.

Changes in personality or behaviour: Becoming passive or withdrawn, or alternatively, more aggressive or angry. May become overly focused or concerned, or alternatively more easily distracted. Mood swings are more noticeable and bullying behaviour may increase.

Hypervigilant or overly responsible: Need to be perfect and excessively express need to care for others. May become overly responsible for housework, siblings, a parent.

Fearful of parental reactions: Guarded and watchful around parents, and constantly on alert for their feelings and moods. May visibly flinch if parents become even slightly angry.

Smokes and/or abuses substances: Older children (11+) may use substances to self-medicate or to feel cool. May have easy access to substances at home.

Excessive non-compliance: Increase in breaking social or school rules. Poor or reduced academic achievement. Verbally disrespectful and/or socially immature.

Mistakenly "diagnosed" with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder: Many signs of abuse are similar to behaviours commonly associated with ADHD or ADD. 

At risk of being directly abused: About 60% of children exposed to spousal abuse are themselves abused. Others have a high risk of abuse. Pooly explained injuries or illnesses and inappropriate knowledge of sexual behaviour may be signs of abuse to children and teens.