Impact of Family Violence

Family violence refers to any form of neglect, maltreatment, or abuse (e.g., physical, sexual, emotional, financial) that a child or adult experiences from a family member or an intimate partner who they trust and depend on.

Family violence has long-lasting adverse impacts on health and wellbeing, including greater risk for a range of mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse), physical health issues (e.g., injuries, cardiovascular diseases, immune system dysfunctions), a shorter life expectancy, and intergenerational trauma.

Women and children are more likely to experience family violence and are more vulnerable to its negative health impacts. According to global estimates, 35% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, 23% of men and women have experienced physical abuse as children, and 18% of women and almost 8% of men have experienced sexual abuse as children.

Family violence is also a widespread public health issue in Canada. According to the Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2016 called “A Focus on Family Violence in Canada”:

  • For approximately 85,000 or 26% of victims of violent crimes reported to the police, the person responsible for the crime was a family member. Many more incidents of family violence never come to the attention of authorities.
  • An estimated 9 million or one in three Canadians over the age of 15 years said they had experienced abuse before the age of 15 years.
  • About 760,000 or 4% of Canadians over the age of 15 years said they had experienced intimate partner violence in the previous five years.
  • More than 766,000 or 8% of older Canadians over the age of 55 said they had experienced abuse or neglect in the previous year.
  • The risk of experiencing family violence and its health impacts is higher for women, children, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning (LGBTQ).

Family violence is a complex issue that results from a combination of individual characteristics (e.g., personality, substance use, history of childhood abuse), social/family dynamics (e.g., conflict, social support, power and control), and community/societal factors (e.g., safety, poverty, beliefs and norms about gender and family violence).

Because family violence affects individuals, families, communities, and societies, everyone is responsible for stopping and preventing it. We can do this by becoming more informed about its signs and impacts, changing our attitudes and behaviours, promoting healthy relationships and resilience practices, building safe and supportive communities, and most importantly, supporting our children and youth.


Baker, L., Straatman, A.L., Etherington, N., O’Neil, B., Heron, C., Sapardanis, K. (2016). Towards a conceptual framework: Trauma, family violence and health. London, ON: Knowledge Hub, Learning Network, Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children.
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2016). The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2016: A Focus on Family Violence in Canada. Ottawa, ON: PHAC.


Black and white photography by: Lora Jude DeWolfe