Abuse threatens a child’s sense of his or her family as safe and nurturing. When a man is abusive to a child’s mother, it’s more than bad role modelling. It’s bad parenting. He may maltreat the children directly or indirectly.


Children are not passive witnesses to noise, tension and violence at home :


Little eyes and little ears don’t miss much, soaking in sights and sounds. Child “witnesses” of violence and abuse are overwhelmed by intense feelings and concentrate hard on their own thoughts. They may feel confused and scared and blame themselves. As they watch or listen, they guess what caused the “fight,” imagine what might happen next, and anticipate

potential consequences.


Examples : What they may Think or Feel


Sadness :          why is this happening again?

Confusion :       why doesn’t mom just kick him out?

Concern :          mom is going to get really hurt one day

Isolation :         I can’t talk to anyone about this

Guilt :                I could have done something to prevent this

Fear :                he might turn on me next or hurt me

Resignation :    this is never going to stop

Vengeful :         I wish he would die or get hit by a bus

Worthlessness : if they really cared about me, they would stop this

Helplessness : there is nothing I can do to help my mom

Responsibility : I have to protect my younger siblings from this situation

Anger :              why does mom let him treat her (and me) so badly?





From : Little eyes, little ears. How violence against a mother shapes children as they grow by Alison Cunningham & Linda Baker. The Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System