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When children are involved

If you witness or suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you must make a
report to the Child Abuse Hotline

During office hours, call 1-877-341-3101

After hours, call 1-800-341-6868

Exposure to family violence has a dramatic effect on children. In fact, children exposed to family violence can be affected as much as the individual experiencing the abuse.

Some parents hope that if their children do not see the violence, it will not harm them. Others think they can protect their kids from the impact of abuse. But abuse harms
children even if they are not consciously aware of the violence or if they are in a different room when it happens.

Effects on children exposure to anger and abuse can affect a child's:

  • brain development – this in turn affects every aspect of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development;

  • emotional well-being – increased anxiety and fear often have long-term effects ability to learn; and

  • ability to connect with other people and make friends – relationships are learned from observing others

Children exposed to family violence are more likely to be bullies or be bullied. They are also at greater risk of growing up to be abusive to others, to be abused, or both. If a parent stays in an abusive situation, children learn there are few or no consequences for violent behavior. Children may grow up to abuse their partners or others, and may accept violence in relationships because they consider violence to be a normal part of a relationship.  For information on preventing and dealing with bullying, visit

Signs and symptoms of child abuse

Children who are in abusive environments may:

  • act aggressive or bully others;

  • withdraw from social activities;

  • take little or no interest in their surroundings;

  • find loud noises or loud voices unusually startling;

  • be fearful or wary of people's reactions;

  • have unexplained bruises or injuries; or

  • run away from home repeatedly.

The following websites and publications provide more detailed information about children exposed to family violence:

Child Trauma Academy

The ChildTrauma Academy is a US-based organization of individuals and organizations working to improve the lives of high-risk children through direct service, research and education.

United Nations Study on Violence Against Children

This study was a global effort to paint a detailed picture of the nature, extent and causes of violence against children, and to propose clear recommendations for action to prevent and respond to it.

Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Violence Against a Mother Shapes Children as They Grow [PDF]
This resource draws together, in one place, information from the best and latest research for volunteers and professionals who help women and children.

Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do? [PDF]
This booklet is for the parents or guardians of children or any Canadian who believes they know a child being abused. It talks about child abuse in families. It answers questions about the law on child abuse in Canada.


Information on this web page was provided with permission from Children's Services, Province of Alberta. Original sources include the following:

Perry, B. (2005). "The Destructive Impact of Domestic Violence on Children," and "Facts about exposure to violence." In Family Violence: It's Your Business, Community Resource Guide. Edmonton, AB: Prevention of Family Violence and Bullying, Alberta Children's Services.

Bender, E. (2004). "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Other Disorders Evident in Kids Who Witness Domestic Violence." Psychiatric News, 39(11).

Baker, L., Jaffe, P., et al. (2002) Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: An Early Childhood Educator's Handbook to Increase Understanding and Improve Community Resources.

Moss, K. (2003). Witnessing Violence-Aggression and Anxiety in Young Children. Supplement to Health Reports (14). Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.

Baker, L., Jaffe, P., & Moore, K. (2001). Understanding the Effects of Domestic Violence – A Handbook for Early Childhood Educators. Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System.

Balshaw, B. (1993). Living with Intention. Unpublished thesis, University of Calgary.

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