Therapy programs for children exposed to IPV

About this review

This Intervention Review is primarily based on 0 systematic reviews and 6 primary studies.

The review draws on the best available impact evaluation evidence. The studies were selected against a set selection criteria which is based on a rigorous and comprehensive search and screening process. This review includes impact evaluations of the intervention and therefore does not necessarily reflect all evidence on the intervention.

Further materials on this intervention are listed under References and further reading.

See the Recovery and Healing Evidence and Gap Map to explore similar interventions. For detail about the individual studies, see the Included Studies section. For further information about the methods informing this review, please see the Intervention Review Technical Report (forthcoming).

Suggested citation: ANROWS. (2023). Therapy programs for children exposed to intimate partner violence. Evidence Portal Intervention Review. ANROWS

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Date Created: 28 June, 2023
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At a glane

Intervention

Therapeutic programs exclusively for children exposed to intimate partner violence differ in modalities, consisting of play therapy, group therapy with psychoeducation or counselling

Key populations

Children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders

Outcomes studied

Child health, behaviour and development

Impact of the intervention

Coming soon

Australian Evidence

None of the studies presented findings from Australia or reported on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Risk of bias

Coming soon

Intervention description

What are the key characteristics of the intervention?

Therapeutic programs for children exposed to intimate partner violence may be delivered exclusively to children or conjointly to children and their caregivers. The focus of this review are therapeutic programs for children only. These programs generally seek to improve children’s coping mechanisms, sense of self-control, self-esteem, skills such as communication and problem solving, and overall functioning. The interventions vary in format, and may be focused on group therapies, play therapy for individual children or their siblings.

Groups therapies assist children to process strong emotions in a supportive environment. They can also include psycho-educational components that cover topics related to: recognising and learning about family violence in a developmentally appropriate way, safety skills promotion, anger and conflict resolution, family cohesion, and discussion of children's sense of responsibility for their parents and for the violence. Specific activities may include: drama, art, music, crafts, games and exercise or movement body-based practices.

Play therapies create a safe space for children to process their exposure to intimate partner violence via play, and involve reflective activities, building self-confidence and encouraging expression. Sessions involve the use of various toys, crafts, and worksheet materials. Programs may be tailored with culturally sensitive approaches and content.


What does the intervention involve?
Where is the intervention set?

Delivered in a variety of settings, most commonly women’s shelters and specialist family violence or community-based services

How is the intervention delivered?

Primarily delivered face-to-face by graduate-level trained therapists

How frequently is the intervention delivered?

Delivered with varying frequency and duration of delivery, based on a range of 12 days up to 10 weeks

What resources and costs are involved?

No studies commented on the costs associated with the intervention

Theory of change

How is the intervention designed or theorised to work ?

The interventions are generally informed by ecologically based perspectives and offer developmentally appropriate therapeutic support. Specifically, play therapies are based on child-centred and non-directive approaches. Through the medium of play, children are empowered to express themselves and their inner world, make sense of their experiences and learn coping strategies.


Impact

This section speaks to the effectiveness of the studies.

The outcomes measured by the included studies focused on children’s general wellbeing and behaviours, conduct problems, externalising and internalising behaviours, aggression, anger, safety and support skills, cognitive function, anxiety, school learning success, peer social skills, and other physical and mental health.

The impact of this intervention cannot be determined at this stage, given most studies received a high risk of bias rating.


Effectiveness rating
Outcome
Description

Key populations

Has the impact of this intervention been tested with certain key populations?

Interventions were not designed for any specific cultural or ethnic groups, people with physical or mental disabilities, or health conditions. Some studies included African American participants only.The table below gives an overview of whether or not the intervention was examined with some key populations. The inclusion of these populations was guided by the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 and the Australian National Research Agenda to End Violence against Women and Children: 2023-2028.


🔴 = no studies
🟡 = at least 1 study mentions that population, but effectiveness wasn't tested with that population
🟢 = at least 1 study tests effectiveness with the population

Population What do we know about this group? Degree of knowledge
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

0 studies examine the effectiveness of the intervention with this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Therefore, we cannot confirm the applicability of this intervention to this population.

Sexuality and gender diverse/LGBTIQA+

0 studies examine the effectiveness of the intervention with this population. Therefore, we cannot confirm the applicability of this intervention to this population.

Specific age groups (including older people, children and young people)

All studies examined the effectiveness of the intervention with children

Culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) groups

1 study examined the effectiveness of the intervention with African American participants only.

Migrants and refugees

0 studies examine the effectiveness of the intervention with this population. Therefore, we cannot confirm the applicability of this intervention to this population.

People with disability

0 studies examine the effectiveness of the intervention with people with disabilities. Therefore, we cannot confirm the applicability of this intervention to this population.

Key considerations

This section summarises factors that may contribute to study results, factors that may be considered to facilitate better outcomes, and the transferability of the intervention to an Australian context.

What do we know about the intervention in Australia?

What should Australian stakeholders consider?


Included studies

Characteristics of primary studies included in the Intervention Review
Study and location Design Intervention Sample Outcome categories
Kot et al. (1998) United States QED
Comparison: Treatment as usual (care in the shelters)
Qualitative data: No
Child-centered play therapy
Duration and format: Individual face-to-face 12 sessions for 45minutes across 12 days - 3 weeks plus regular shelter programs delivered by counsellors
Setting: Playroom in domestic violence shelters
Costs: Not provided
NExp =11, NComp = 11
Children exposed to intimate partner violence, residents of shelters, all genders (female 54.54%), aged 4-10 years
Child health, behaviour and development
McWhirter (2008) United States Single group pre-post study
Comparison: N/A
Qualitative data: No
Community-based group therapy
Duration and format: Group face-to-face for 5 weeks, delivered by counsellors
Setting: Not provided
Costs: Not provided
N=46 children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders, aged 6-12 years Child health, behaviour and development
Patterson et al. (2018) United States Single group pre-post study
Comparison: N/A
Qualitative data: No
Child-centered play therapy, culturally adapted for African American children
Duration and format: Individual and group face-to-face, individual 6 weeks for 50 minutes, delivered by professional registered play therapists
Setting: Early education afterschool program Costs: Not provided
N=12 children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders (female 33.3%), aged 5-9 years, all African American Child health, behaviour and development
Sudermann et al. (2000) Canada Single group pre-post study
Comparison: N/A
Qualitative data: No
London (Ontario) Community Group Treatment Programme for Child Witnesses of Woman Abuse
Duration and format: 10–12 group face-to-face sessions delivered by professional co-facilitators, plus inter-agency collaboration
Setting: various settings including child protection service, children’s mental health centre, family and housing services, women’s shelter
Costs: Not provided
N=31 children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders (female 54.84%), aged 7-15 years Child health, behaviour and development
Tyndall-Lind et al. (2001) United States Quasi-experimental study with a control group
Comparison: Waitlist
Qualitative data: No
Sibling group therapy and individual child play therapy, plus regular shelter programs
Duration and format: 12 face-to-face, 45-minute sessions of individual across a period of 12 days -3 weeks, 3-4 educational and recreational group sessions per week, delivered by counsellors plus regular shelter programs
Setting: Women’s shelters
Costs: Not provided
Sibling group therapy: NExp = 10, NComp = 11 Children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders (female 60%), residing in shelters, aged 4-9 years
Individual play therapy: NExp = 11, NComp = 11 Children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders (female 54.54%), residing in shelters, aged 4-10 years
Child health, behaviour and development
Wagar & Rodway (1995) Canada Randomised controlled trial
Comparison: Waitlist
Qualitative data: No
Group psychoeducational therapy
Duration and format: 10 weekly sessions delivered by professional facilitator
Setting: Not provided
Costs: Not provided
NExp= 16, NComp = 22 Children exposed to intimate partner violence, all genders, aged 8-13 years Child health, behaviour and development

References and further reading

Included Studies

Additional evidence on the intervention

This list contains other evidence that was not eligible for the Intervention Review based on our selection criteria but may provide further information regarding the intervention.