Scope of the Problem

It is difficult to establish a reliable estimate of the number of children in the US who are affected by domestic violence. The following statistics vividly convey the scope of the problem:

  • A recent survey of American households revealed that 15 to 17 million–nearly 30 percent—of children in this country live in homes where there is some form of intimate partner violence (McDonald, Jouriles, Ramisetty-Mikler, Caetano, & Green). Many of these households have very young children.
  • A July 2009 analysis of more than 10,000 children served by the NCTSN found that 44.3 percent of the children reported exposure to domestic violence. This was the third most common trauma type for the group of children served (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2009).
  • Surveys of court and police response data in Massachusetts, Los Angeles, and New Haven, Conn., found that children under the age of six were disproportionately represented in homes where there is domestic violence (Cochran, 1995; L. A. Ross, personal communication, 2009; Child Development-Community Policing Program & Domestic Violence Home Visit Intervention Project, 2004-2005).
  • Data from three police precincts in Los Angeles indicate that 51 percent of the children in homes that police responded to directly witnessed the domestic violence (L. A. Ross, personal communication, 2009).
  • In a study of families in Minneapolis that called 911 for a domestic violence incident, more than two-thirds of their children were direct witnesses to the incident, with 12 percent physically involved and an additional 57 percent in the room during the incident. Increasing proximity to the violence was associated with poorer functioning among children who were observed by clinicians within days after the event (A. Gewirtz, personal communication, 2009).

These statistics indicate that children and families affected by domestic violence are likely to be found in most neighborhoods and towns in this country.