The health and social impacts of family violence

Family violence is a serious public health issue. It can cause a range of short-term or long-term health problems, and can even result in death. The impacts of family violence can be physical, mental, cognitive and behavioural.

Family violence can also affect people's social or economic situations. For example, the experience of family violence can contribute to living in poverty, dropping out of school or having limited options for safe and affordable housing. At the same time, social conditions can affect a family's risk for violence. Poverty, a low level of education, or poor housing situations can make families more vulnerable to family violence.

Research shows that the longer and more severe the abuse, the worse the health and social impacts are, and the longer it takes for families and individuals to recover. For example, if a child lives with abuse or is exposed to violence in the home, the effects on health can last a lifetime.

Table 1: Family violence can cause a number of serious health and social problems across the lifespan
Infants Children Teenagers Adults Older Adults

Less control of emotions

Problems with parent-child bonding

Delays in growth and development

Behavioural problems

Failure at school

Problems with friendships
Attempted suicide


Anti-social behaviour (conduct disorder)

Alcohol and drug use

Other risky behaviours
Post-traumatic stress disorder

Diseases and pain

Trouble with relationships

Lack of stable employment
Depression and loneliness

Shorter life


Financial problems
Text Equivalent - Figure 1

This figure groups the health and social problems that result from family violence according to the stage of life in which they are most evident.

Adapted from: MacMillan, HL, Wathen, CN. (2014). Research Brief: Interventions to Prevent Child Maltreatment. PreVAiL: Preventing Violence Across the Lifespan Research Network. London, ON. (PDF document)

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