The effects of children's exposure to domestic violence: a meta-analysis and critique

Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2003 Sep;6(3):171-87. doi: 10.1023/a:1024910416164.


A wide range of children's developmental outcomes are compromised by exposure to domestic violence, including social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and general health functioning. However, there are relatively few empirical studies with adequate control of confounding variables and a sound theoretical basis. We identified 41 studies that provided relevant and adequate data for inclusion in a meta-analysis. Forty of these studies indicated that children's exposure to domestic violence was related to emotional and behavioral problems, translating to a small overall effect (Zr = .28). Age, sex, and type of outcome were not significant moderators, most likely due to considerable heterogeneity within each of these groups. Co-occurrence of child abuse increased the level of emotional and behavioral problems above and beyond exposure alone, based on 4 available studies. Future research needs are identified, including the need for large-scale longitudinal data and theoretically guided approaches that take into account relevant contextual factors.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crime Victims*
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*