Skip to site content Skip to main menu

Domestic abuse: The effects on children

Click here if you want to navigate away from this page quickly.


Children living in an environment where someone is being abused, are affected by seeing or hearing the abuse as well as experiencing tension in the build-up and aftermath. They are often described as the 'forgotten victims' of domestic abuse.

Children can often give a detailed description of the abuse – even when the adults involved believe the children are unaware.

Domestic abuse can continue post-separation and it is recognised that perpetrators may use child contact as a mechanism to continue to exert control on their ex-partner.

The harm associated with domestic abuse and children, is recognised in the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. The offence is aggravated where a perpetrator;

  • directs behaviour at or involves the child in carrying out the abuse;
  • is abusive in the presence of a child;
  • if a reasonable person would consider that the abusive behaviour is likely to negatively affect a child living with the abuser and/or the adult victim.

Where Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 offences are aggravated, the courts may impose harsher penalties on those found guilty.

On all occasions when children are present during domestic abuse incidents or ordinarily reside in the household where the abuse is taking place, the police attending the incident will also have concern for the welfare of the children. This information will be recorded and can be shared with our partner agencies.