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
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own