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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness