Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 171–187 | Cite as

The Effects of Children's Exposure to Domestic Violence: A Meta-Analysis and Critique

  • David A. WolfeEmail author
  • Claire V. Crooks
  • Vivien Lee
  • Alexandra McIntyre-Smith
  • Peter G. Jaffe


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 (Z r = .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.

domestic violence child witnesses marital aggression meta-analysis child behavior problems family violence child abuse 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Wolfe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Claire V. Crooks
    • 1
  • Vivien Lee
    • 1
  • Alexandra McIntyre-Smith
    • 1
  • Peter G. Jaffe
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Research on Violence against Women and ChildrenThe University of Western OntarioOntarioCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthThe University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System of the London Family Court ClinicOntarioCanada

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