Domestic violence affects one million children in the UK

New report shows that the scale of the problem has grown by almost a quarter in 10 years

Almost a million children in Britain are affected by domestic violence, either as victims or witnesses, a new study will reveal tomorrow. The number has increased more than 22 per cent over the past decade.

Some 52 per cent of parents with children under 18 experience frequent or serious conflict, according to YouGov in a poll for the charity 4Children. Of those relatives who have regular clashes, 8 per cent – or 600,000 – are so violent that physical injuries occur.

The report is the first to expose the true scale of violence within families, as it examines not just abuse between couples, but also physical abuse of children by their parents, between siblings and attacks by children on their parents.

Despite the widespread problem, four out of five families affected do not get help for domestic violence. Those who do seek help find it increasingly scarce: more than a quarter of all councils have cut back their funding for domestic abuse support over the past two years.

One of the least recorded crimes is attacks by teenagers on their parents. The study was able to obtain statistics for it only from the Metropolitan Police, who responded to more than 1,900 incidents of over-18s attacking their own parents in London in 2009-10.

Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive of 4Children, said: "Domestic violence is familiar ground, but family violence is often hidden from view. Conflict need not turn to violence if families get the help they need. Violence in the family threatens lives, breaks up families and has severe ongoing psychological and physical effects on hundreds of thousands of parents and children every year.

"Family violence is one of the biggest causes of family crisis in the UK, one that puts lives at risk, isolates people, undermines good mental health and costs the taxpayer in excess of £3.1bn a year in costs to the NHS, the courts and social services."

The scale of abuse also has a significant impact on future generations. According to research from the US, children who have experienced violence in the home are up to 24 times more likely to commit sexual assault than those from non-violent homes. Victims of child abuse are a third more likely to harm their own children.

The neurological impact on children of domestic violence is similar to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the latest research. Dr Eamon McCrory, a developmental neuroscientist at UCL, said: "We knew that domestic violence can significantly increase the risk of later mental health problems, but I found that kids exposed to family violence showed higher neural activity to threats such as angry faces in the same regions that show heightened activity in soldiers exposed to combat."

Sarah, 31, whose name has been changed to protect her family, is from Colchester, Essex. She has three children and escaped from an abusive marriage two years ago.

"I was married to my husband for 10 years before I left. Every six months he'd blow up and there'd be a violent outburst. When I was seven months pregnant with my first child, he dragged me around by my hair and locked me in the bedroom. I never knew I had a problem till I read an article in the paper about domestic violence with a checklist. I ticked every category.

"When I asked if we could have a break he smashed a vase and a canvas on my head. I had to call the police several times. Eventually I escaped and went to a refuge. My eldest boy was quite violent when we first left. He was seven and he'd hit me and pulled a centimetre-wide chunk of my hair out. My youngest, who's four, has counselling. He's got the emotional age of an 18-month-old because of the trauma."

Mark Brooks, chair of the charity ManKind, which supports male victims of domestic abuse, said: "Research like this shows domestic abuse is not one-dimensional but multi-dimensional, and this will go a long way to ensuring that all victims of domestic abuse are supported, regardless of gender, race or sexuality."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week