Positive outcomes from an immediate and ongoing intervention for child witnesses of intimate partner violence. Academic Article uri icon


  • Children who witness intimate partner violence (IPV) experience many psychological and social problems similar to those of the victimized parent. Intervention programs for children who witness IPV have not been adequately evaluated. Two of the most important target areas in treating the children are to improve understanding that (1) the violence is not their fault and that (2) development of a safety plan is valuable in case of future violence. We evaluated a unique immediate and ongoing intervention program for children who witness adult IPV.This was a retrospective review of progress report results both pre- and postintervention of an ongoing IPV intervention program. POPULATION AND INTERVENTION: The study was completed in a largely Hispanic city of 500,000. The intervention program included a number of unique aspects including immediate intervention at the time of police calls for adult IPV, children's art therapy and sand tray therapy, and a unique coloring book to establish a child safety plan in the event of recurrent IPV. Progress report forms included 16 qualitative questions that evaluated the child's understanding of various important concepts pre- and postintervention.All children who entered the program in the last 3 years and had completed data sets for all 16 questions were included. Responses to questions pre- vs postintervention were compared using Wilcoxon signed ranks test.Fifty-eight children had complete data sets pre- and postintervention. Mean age was 8.5 +/- 3.5 years (range, 3-17), and 49% were male. Mean length of therapy was 7.4 +/- 5.2 months (range, 1-31), with a mean number of sessions of 9.7 +/- 11.7 (range, 1-59). For 15 of the 16 evaluation questions, a statistically significant improvement in postintervention evaluations compared with preintervention evaluations was found (P < .01). This included a significant improvement in the percentage of children who were aware that violence was not their fault (59% preintervention vs 84% postintervention; difference, 25%; 95% confidence interval, 9-41) and a significant improvement in the percentage of children who knew and understood a safety plan in case of recurrent episodes of violence exposure (32% preintervention vs 93% postintervention; difference, 61%; 95% confidence interval, 47-75).Among children who were exposed to adult IPV and subsequently underwent immediate and ongoing treatment, there was a significant improvement in the percentage of children who were aware that violence was not their fault and in the percentage of children who were aware of safety planning.

publication date

  • May 2008