Children in group interventions after exposure to violence toward a caregiver : Experiences, needs, and outcomes

Sammanfattning: This thesis consists of three empirical studies, all part of the same research project, with a general aim to explore interventions for children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV). Because witnessing violence toward a caregiver is associated with negative impact on children’s health and development, effective interventions for children exposed to IPV are necessary.The aim of Study I was to elucidate young children’s experiences of participating in group interventions for children exposed to IPV. Nine children, aged 4 to 6 years, were interviewed after participating in group programs designed for children exposed to IPV. The interviews were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Five master themes embracing the children’s experiences were identified: joy; security; relatedness; talking; and competence.The aim of Study II was to investigate young children’s accounts of their abused parent. Interviews were conducted with 17 children between 4 and 13 years old who had witnessed IPV. Thematic analysis identified three main themes: coherent accounts of the parent; deficient accounts of the parent; and parent as a trauma trigger.Study III was an effectiveness study investigating the outcomes of two group interventions for children exposed to IPV and their non-offending parent: one psycho-educative community-based intervention (CBI) and one psychotherapeutic treatment intervention. The study included 50 children between 4 and 13 years old and their mothers. Child and maternal mental health problems and trauma symptoms were assessed before and after treatment. The results indicate that although children benefited from both interventions, symptom reduction was larger in the psychotherapeutic intervention. Despite these improvements, most of the children’s mothers still reported child trauma symptoms at clinical levels post treatment. Both interventions, however, significantly reduced maternal post-traumatic stress.The results showed that children generally appreciated and benefited from both interventions studied, but most still showed symptoms at clinical levels post treatment and a possible need for additional and/or different support and interventions. These results indicate not only the need for continuous and post-treatment assessment of children’s symptoms in routine clinical practice, but also the value of including children as informants in research.

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