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."

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

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment