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“Are they shouting because of me?”

Voices of children living in households with domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental health issues

Introduction from the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield

“They hate the problem, they love the parent” - support worker

Much of the research into the impact on children of living in households with domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental health is from the perspective of adults – with limited insights from children themselves. We wanted to hear directly from children what it was like to live in these households.

Children spoke openly to us about their daily lives – how it affected their emotional wellbeing, school life and relationships with friends, and the ways in which they attempted to cope. They told us about living with high levels of tension and unpredictability at home, about situations that could explode at any time and of an evolving sense of shame as they began to understand that the chaos and neglect that they took for granted wasn’t the same for all children. Children often said they had to find ways to cope which meant that they had to grow up too quickly. For all this, they knew that the alternative without their parent would be painful and often went to great lengths not to tell others for fear of being separated.

Despite the problems at home and the impact it had on them, they were also very clear about how much they loved and trusted their parents. Torn between loyalty and love, and the need to seek help, these children were extremely brave in talking about their family life so frankly, and we thank them.