POLICE Department

Family Violence Unit - Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

"Children raised in violent homes learn many lessons. They learn how to keep family secrets. They learn how to get what they want through aggression and manipulation. They learn that people who love you hurt you. They learn that violence, albeit painful, is an acceptable part of life."(Wilson, K.J., Ed.D. When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse, Hunter House Publishing, 1997).

The Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Traditionally, parents claimed ownership of their children and society hesitated to interfere with the family unit. Similarly, society in the past, has sanctioned the belief that men have the right to use whatever force is necessary to control the behavior of women. Those in intimate relationships as well as those who abuse children often are repeating learned behaviors transmitted intergenerationally. Both forms of abuse are identified by patterns. Neither domestic violence nor child abuse is an isolated event. Both occur with some regularity, often increasing and becoming more serious. Adults who were abused as children have an increased risk of abusing their children, and adults who grew up in a violent home are more likely to become perpetrators or victims of domestic violence. For a number of reasons including shame, secrecy, and isolation, both types of abuse are underreported.

Domestic violence and child abuse also differ in some significant ways. Parental stress is an important factor in instances of child abuse, but this link has not been established in cases of domestic violence. Reported perpetrators of child maltreatment, are equally men and women, but the majority of perpetrators of domestic violence are men. (Reproduced in part from "The Relationship between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse" fact sheet #20, September 1996, by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse)

The Family Violence Unit will interview children victims or witnesses if they become involved in a family violence incident. Children exposed to domestic violence can suffer, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Children deal with the stress in different ways. Some may be passive. Some may "act-out" or become aggressive. Some may be lethargic and have a lack of interest in things they normally cared for. They may suffer from depression or become anxious. They may display regressive behaviors of younger children such as bed wetting and thumb-sucking. Intervention and assessment is the best course of action to deter further damage.

Teens who have grown up in violent homes are also at risk as they enter adulthood. Teens may run away from home, become truant from school, join the ranks of teen pregnancy, join a gang, or become involved in criminal activities. For more information on how to get help, call:

Abuse Hotline
Report Child Abuse
Counseling for Traumatized Children
Familily Service Center
Various Family Support Services
Houston Area Women’s Center
Teen Dating Violence
Teen Line
Crisis hotline
713-529-TEEN (8336)
Texas Youth Hotline
Victims’ Resource Institute
Counseling for Traumatized Children
University of Houston Psychology Department