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Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers

This page is an excerpt from:

Helping Children Thrive: Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers

Potential Impact of Violence on School-age Children

Children of different ages will be affected by exposure to domestic violence in different ways.

Key Aspects of Development


Potential Impact of Domestic Violence


Increased emotional awareness for self and others


more aware of own reactions to violence; more aware of impact on others (e.g., mother's safety, father being charged)


Increased complexity in thinking about right and wrong; emphasis on fairness and intent


possibly more susceptible to rationalizations heard to justify violence (e.g., alcohol as cause, victim deserves it) or may challenge rationalizations not viewed as fair or right; may assess "was the fight fair?"; can see discrepancies between actions and words and consider intent; justifications involving children may lead to self-blame or guilt


Academic and social success at school has primary impact on self-concept


learning may be compromised (e.g., distracted); may miss positive statements or selectively attend to negatives or evoke negative feedback


Increased influence from outside family (e.g., peers, school) and competition assumes new importance within peer group


possibly more influenced by messages that confirm attitudes and behaviours associated with partner abuse; may use hostile aggression to compete; increased risk for bullying and/or being bullied


Increased same sex identification


may learn gender roles associated with partner abuse (e.g., male perpetrators, female victims)

Implications for Interventions with Mothers of School-age Children (ages 6 to 12)

  • ensure the mother is safe from violence and children are safe from maltreatment

  • help with housing, accessing income assistance, accessing medical services, and other assistance she requires: see the handout called You Know What You Need: Ask for It!

  • offer support to the woman as a mother (e.g., parenting assistance, referral to parenting program, etc.)

  • liaise with the school if required to access assessments or supports there

  • assist the woman to gain legal advice if required for custody and support issues

  • discuss the strategies she might use to address safety of the child when on access visits with her ex-partner: see the handout called Navigating Children's Contact with their Father

  • consult the local Children's Aid Society if you have concerns a child might be at risk for abuse/neglect or in need of protection: see Knowing When to Report Child Maltreatment

Handouts for Women

We encourage the use of these handouts in interventions with women, either in a one-on-one intervention or as discussion material in a group intervention.

How My Child or Teen Copes

Life with a Teenager: The Art of Negotiation

Ten Basic Points of Good Discipline

Healing & Strengthening the Mother/Child Bond

Navigating Children's Contact with their Father

When Children Act Abusively in your Home

When You Need More Support

When Your Child Needs More Support

Taking Care of Yourself

Want to know more?

Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: A Teacher's Handbook to Increase Understanding and Improve Community Responses (2002)

What About Me! Seeking to Understand the Child's View of Violence in the Family (2004)

Woman Abuse Affects Our Children: An Educator's Guide (2007)

Find all the Centre's resources about children and domestic violence on this resource page

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