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At What Age Do Children Recognize that a Parent Is Being Abused?

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From the U.S.: How old must children be before they can understand something is very wrong in their parents’ relationship? If one parent is being abused, at what age can children recognize it?

At What Age Do Children Recognize that a Parent Is Being Abused?

Answered by on -

A.

Thank you for asking. Adults often underestimate the sensitivity of children to tension in their home. They may not understand it. They may not be able to talk about it (or even talk yet). But kids do react to emotional distress in their caretakers. As infants, their response can be clinginess and irritability. As toddlers and preschoolers, they may regress. As they get older, they may also think that whatever is going on is somehow their fault.

If you are asking because you or someone you care about is being abused, please consider that children of every age do notice and do react to it. This can have long range repercussions in their development and in their ability to trust. The best way to help a child in a household where there is abuse is to help the adults either get out of the situation or fix it.

I wish you well,
Dr. Marie

At What Age Do Children Recognize that a Parent Is Being Abused?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). At What Age Do Children Recognize that a Parent Is Being Abused?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/10/18/at-what-age-do-children-recognize-that-a-parent-is-being-abused/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 15 Oct 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.