Children living with domestic violence: effects on children's well-being

This project will investigate how living with different types of domestic violence in early childhood affects children over time. It will explore how exposure to domestic violence correlates with or affects children’s chances of being victims of violence themselves, their emotional well-being and mental health, and their subsequent behaviour towards others.

An estimated 1 in 5 children in the UK live with domestic violence, and 1 in 4 adult women in the UK experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime. Recently, the Education Secretary in England has named children exposed to domestic violence as a priority group in respect to early help to improve social, psychological and educational outcomes.

This study will be the first in the UK to use longitudinal data to investigate exposure to different types of domestic violence (coercive control, physical abuse, sexual violence) among different groups of mothers of young children. It will draw on nationally representative survey data for Scotland, which can provide inferences for the rest of the UK due to similarities of domestic violence patterns. It will provide an account of the extent and types of domestic violence experienced by mothers and their young children, and whether childhood exposure has causal detrimental effects on wellbeing, development and behaviour. The study will also explore how parents’ attitudes to and contact with public support services and the justice system relate to children’s outcomes.

The study is timely in relation to current legal changes in how domestic violence and child maltreatment are defined and addressed, and findings are intended to inform policy and service development to support families and children exposed to domestic violence. Key audiences include national and local government units and third sector organisations working with victims of domestic violence and issues relating to child protection.

Project Details



Dr Valeria Skafida and Professor John Devaney, School of Social & Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Dr Fiona Morrison, Centre for Child Wellbeing & Child Protection, University of Stirling

Grant amount and duration


October 2019 – September 2022