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Impact of gender-based violence on children

Gender-based violence can have a severe impact on the physical health and growth and developmental of the child. The psychological impact of abuse (or witnessing abuse) can adversely affect mental health and wellbeing and impair bonding and attachment between parent and a child.  

However, although children living in abusive environments have a higher risk of developing behavioural, cognitive and emotional problems, this is not inevitable.  There is a wide variation in children’s responses – some exhibit no more problems than their peers, whilst for others multiple levels of difficulty may arise which may require clinical intervention.  The impact of abuse is mediated by a range of factors such as the nature, frequency and severity of the abuse, and the extent to which the child is exposed to it.  Other stressors within the family such as parental mental health problems, substance misuse, homelessness etc can also exacerbate the impact.   Conversely, protective factors such as wider family support, a strong relationship with their mother, and their own coping skills can help the child develop resilience to mitigate the damage caused by the abuse.