Children’s Needs, Coping Strategies and Understanding of Woman Abuse

January 1, 1997


This multi-methodological study sought to discover how both children and young people understand domestic violence and how those who have lived with it cope with, and make sense, of their experiences. The primary themes of this research were children’s general understandings and perceptions of domestic violence; including whether they see it as affecting children, who they see as responsible for it and what they think should be done. The study explores what the general population of children know about domestic violence, as well as the specific experiences of children who have lived in situations where their mothers have been abused.

Main Findings:

  1. Just under 30% of children reported that they knew someone who had experienced domestic violence.
  2. 79% of children thought that domestic violence was ‘common’ or ‘very common’.
  3. The majority of children thought there was a difference between a man hitting a woman and a woman hitting a man, typically because men are stronger.
  4. Primary school children cited sadness and fear as likely reactions to living with domestic violence, while for secondary school students unhappiness topped the list and anger also came more to the fore.
  5. Overall, boys were less clear than girls about who, if anyone, was to blame for violence in the home and were more likely to excuse the actions of the perpetrator and blame the victim.
  6. The majority of both secondary and primary school children wanted lessons on domestic violence in school.

Among children who have actually lived with domestic violence specifically:

  1. These children demonstrated a much greater level of understanding about domestic violence, which grows as they get older.
  2. Most of these children are quite clear who is responsible for the violence, blaming it solely on the abuser.
  3. This study confirmed the wide range of negative physical, emotional and psychological effects that domestic violence has on children.
  4. Mothers and children are often hesitant to talk openly with each other about the violence that they are experiencing – it is suggested that public education and dissemination to women’s organisations could be used to convey the message that children dislike adults trying to hide things from them and avoiding explanations – children want to be taken seriously and involved in decisions.
  5. It was found that children employ a wide range of coping strategies and play an active role, both while living with domestic violence and throughout the leaving process.
  6. Children want support, understanding and action to stop the violence.

See Research Report: Children’s Needs, Coping Strategies and Understanding of Women Abuse

See Book: Children’s Perspectives on Domestic Violence

Grant Holder: CWASU in conjunction with: Audrey Mullender and Umme Imam of Warwick University and Gill Hague and Ellen Malos of Bristol University

Sponsor: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

  • Project Team:
    Audrey Mullender, Ellen Malos, Gill Hague, Liz Kelly, Umme F Imam