Program development of a group intervention for women and their young children ( age 1-7 ) exposed to domestic violence. (WC2011-053)


Starting date: 20/06/2011

The prevalence rate of children’s exposure to violence between their parents is considerable and the serious consequences that may result from this exposure urged mental health care organizations (De Jutters Den Haag; Dimence, Zwolle; Riagg Rijnmond, Rotterdam) and VU University to develop an improved intervention for young children to help them cope with having witnessed interparental violence. In this project, two interventions were combined and improved by describing the conceptual framework, by observation and the Delphi method. The knowledge of both practitioners (9) and scientists (8) was extensively used through anonymous exchange of arguments. This resulted in a combined view of the most optimal elements for a community based group intervention for young witnesses (under the age of 7) and their mothers.

A large number of children have been exposed to interparental violence. In the Netherlands, 13% of adolescents have witnessed interparental violence in their youth (Alink, van IJzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, Pannebakker, Vogels, & Euser, 2011; Lamers-Winkelman, Slot, Bijl, & Vijlbrief, 2007).
Children exposed to interparental violence are at increased risk for developing mental health (Chan & Yeung, 2009; Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt, & Kenny, 2003; Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, McIntyre-Smith, & Jaffe, 2003) and health problems (Lamers-Winkelman, De Schipper, & Oosterman, 2012). Witnessing interparental violence is as harmful to children as being victim of physical abuse (Kitzmann, et al, 2003), especially when the child perceives the violence as life-threatening for himself and/ or the parent (Perry, 1993). Young children compared to older children, need to rely more heavily on their parents for their daily wellbeing and as a result, they might also more often be exposed to violent acts. Therefore, the group intervention was developed to support both children and their mother.

The conceptual framework of this intervention is currently evaluated by NJI database for effective youth interventions (Commision for the Assessment of Interventions).