Childhood Exposure to Domestic & Family Violence
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Domestic and family violence occurs across all age, socioeconomic and demographic groups, but predominantly affects women and children.1
There is mounting empirical evidence of the effects of exposure to domestic and family violence on children’s development, and a growing recognition of the ways these harms can manifest in intergenerational cycles of trauma, violence and disadvantage.2
Impacts on children’s behaviour, schooling, cognitive development and physical and mental well-being include:
- impaired cognitive functioning;
- poorer academic outcomes;
- increased aggression;
- lack of emotional control;
- destructive behaviours;
- learning difficulties;
- depression and poor mental well-being;
- low self-esteem;
- low school attendance; and
The cumulative effects of long-term exposure to violence might result in an inability to regulate emotion, and cognitive and behavioural developmental delays.4
There is evidence of a link between exposure to family violence in childhood and the intergen
erational transmission of violence,5
as well as alcohol and drug abuse.6
Children whose formative years are affected are vulnerable to developing long term mental health issues, which is itself a risk factor for both experiencing and perpetrating family violence.7
The potential relevance of evidence of childhood exposure to domestic and family violence in sentencing proceedings includes an assessment of
moral culpability; moderating the weight to be given to
general deterrence; and determining the weight to be given to
specific deterrence and
protection of the community.
 Council of Australian Governments, 'National Plan to End Violence against Women and Their Children' (2011) 1.
 Australian Institute of Family Studies, Children's Exposure to Domestic and Family Violence: Key Issues and Responses (December 2015) 2.
 See Janet Phillips and Penny Vandenbroek, 'Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence in Australia: An Overview of the Issues' (Research Paper, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, 14 October 2014) 18; Royal Commission into Family Violence (Final Report, March 2016) vol 2, 111.
 Royal Commission into Family Violence (Final Report, March 2016) vol 1, 37.
 Janet Phillips and Penny Vandenbroek, 'Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence in Australia: An Overview of the Issues' (Research Paper, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, 14 October 2014) 7.
 Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Submission No 137 to Australian Human Rights Commission, Examination of Children Affected by Family Violence (June 2015) 11.