Domestic Violence and Abuse - Impact on Children and Young People Briefing

Domestic Violence and Abuse - Impact on Children and Young People  Team Briefing June 2020

Why talk about domestic violence and abuse and the impact on children and young people?

According 2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16-74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year. This equates to a prevalence rate of approximately 6 in 100 adults.

26.8% of the 21,631 domestic violence incidents in Leeds in 2019/20 recorded by the Police had children present  

47.6% of children’s social work assessments identified domestic violence as a factor (DFE, characteristics of children in: 2018 to 2019) 


How to use this briefing?

This briefing should provide you with some basic information to raise awareness within a staff team around the topic of Domestic Violence and Abuse and it’s impact on children and young people:

  • Ask team members to read the briefing then, as a group, work through the information, using it as a prompt to promote discussions
  • Use the discussion points at the end to explore how your team works with the topic
  • Consider if there are any further learning and development needs in your team and who is best to pursue this

For the purpose of this briefing the term domestic violence and abuse will be used as it covers a wide spectrum of abusive behaviours.   


Defining Domestic Violence and Abuse

The government definition of domestic violence is defined as:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse; 

  • Psychological; 
  • Physical; 
  • Sexual; 
  • Financial; and
  • Emotional.  

This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group. This definition includes young people aged 16 and 17. 

In Leeds violence from a partner to someone under 16 is also considered to be domestic violence, and from someone under 16 to a partner or parent. (LSCP IVPA in young peoples relationships. Practice guidance, 2019


Children and young peoples experience of domestic violence and abuse

Domestic abuse is persistent and widespread, because of its prevalence many children and young people are affected by it. They can experience domestic abuse in a number of ways:

  1. As a witness to domestic abuse in the family home and maybe directly victimised by the perpetrator of that abuse
  2. In their own intimate partner relationships. When talking about young people who are within abusive relationships, the term used is ‘Interpersonal Violence and Abuse’ (IPVA).  
  3. They may demonstrate harmful behaviours themselves towards partners or family members. The term ‘young person causing harm’ is used instead of ‘perpetrator’ as labelling young people as perpetrators can prove to be a barrier to engagement.  
  4. They may be forced or coerced into abusing by the perpetrator


Impact on children and young people

Experiencing domestic violence in any of the different ways described overleaf can have significant impact on children and young people, including a detrimental and long-lasting impact on a child’s health, development, ability to learn and wellbeing. Guidance for joint targeted area inspections can be found on the Goverment web page (Ofsted et al, 2017

Impacts include:

  • The impact of hearing or being aware of domestic violence is as great, if not greater than seeing domestic violence due to the uncertainty of what is happening and not knowing if the victim is ok.
  • Children may be physically injured due to either being caught in between an adult who is physically abusing another, or by being used as / or purposefully becoming a shield for someone who is being physically abused
  • Children and young people may experience feelings of guilt due to believing that the abuse is their fault, or that they are unable to protect the victim
  • The stress caused to very young children who are exposed to domestic abuse can negatively affect brain development and impact cognitive and sensory growth. Available via the Behind Closed Doors website (UNICEF, 2006)

  • Children can show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder Available via the Safe Lives website (SafeLives, 2015
  • Those who had witnessed domestic abuse as a child under 16 were more likely to experience domestic abuse by a partner as an adult
  • Witnessing domestic violence is one of 10 adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) occurring before the age of 18 which have been found through research to increase the risk of adult mental health problems and debilitating diseases available via the Early Intervention Foundation website (Asmussen et al, 2020
  • Young people who are abusive in their own intimate relationships are more likely to have experienced difficulties in their childhood, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Available via (Barter et al, 2009
  • The experience of domestic abuse for some young people includes causing harm to those closest to them including partners, parents, siblings and other family members. 


Support and Protection for Children and Young People

Due to the wide variety of impacts on children a range of interventions are needed across local areas to make sure children and young people get the specialist help that they need (Action for children (2019) Patchy, piecemeal and precarious: support for children affected by domestic abuse).

This is recognised in Leeds and interventions and services have been put in place to tackle domestic abuse and support children and young people, these include: 

All links can be found on the Leeds Goverment website.

Domestic Abuse Notification Process for schools 

DVA Professionals located in the Early Help Hubs

Family Group Conferencing for DVA   

Families First Interventions 

Front Door Safeguarding Hub Daily Meeting

Leeds Domestic Violence Service

Parents and Children Together (PACT)  

Reducing Parental Conflict  

Further information on support for children and young people can be found here

Where a child or young person under the age of 18 is identified at risk of significant harm, a contact should be made to the Duty and Advice Team at The Front Door: 

Duty and Advice Team  0113 376 0336  (Mon-Thurs 9am-5pm and Fridays 9am-4.30pm).
The emergency duty team 0113 535 0600  (Mon-Thurs 5pm-8am and Fridays 5pm to Monday 8am) 

In an emergencies the police should be contacted on 999 


Areas for Consideration

  • How does our service recognise & respond to the different ways in which children and young people experience domestic violence and abuse?
  • Is there more that we could do?
  • Do we need to change any of our ways of working?
  • Is there a further learning need in our team?