The behavior patterns of abused children as described in their testimonies

Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978, Israel.
Child abuse & neglect (Impact Factor: 2.34). 09/2013; 38(6). DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.08.006
Source: PubMed


The aim of the current study is to identify how children describe their behavior during abuse and to explore their behavior further with respect to the type of the abuse (physical or sexual), frequency of abuse (single or multiple incidents), familiarity with the suspect, and children's age and gender, with the assumption that this information may have a significant effect on the children's recovery process. The study involved 224 transcripts of interviews with alleged victims aged 5-14 in Israel. The sample was randomly selected from all of the forensic investigations with children that were conducted in Israel in 2011. The results show that abuse type has a strong effect on children's behavior, with children in the sexual abuse group reporting more fight and flight behavior and children in the physical abuse group reporting more self-change behavior. This finding was interacted with the severity of abuse variable, with children in the sexual abuse group reporting less flight behavior and an increase in the self-change behavior with the highest level of severity of abuse (touch under the clothes and penetration). Investigative interviews with children can be a significant source of information for practitioners within the clinical context. The current study stresses the consequences that abuse can have on children's behavior during these incidents and the implications for the therapy process with the children.

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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the current study is to promote understanding of children`s lived experiences with physical abuse. This is an important area of research that has rarely been studied, and the current study provides a unique opportunity using children`s narratives during forensic investigations. One hundred and seventeen forensic investigations with children, alleged victims of continuous physical abuse by their biological parents, were randomly selected from all of the interviews that were conducted in Israel in 2011. The forensic investigations were conducted by well-trained forensic interviewers, and all interviewers used the NICHD Protocol, which allows standardized interviews. The analysis paradigm of the interviews was phenomenological, and a thematic analysis was used to identify key patterns within the children`s narratives. Following a thorough thematic analysis, five key categories were identified based on the children`s narratives: the children`s sensations during the abusive incidents, the children`s emotions, the children`s understanding of their experiences, the dynamics within the families and the children`s desires for the future. The discussion addresses the importance of integrating children`s voices regarding their lived experiences into the work of practitioners and policy makers. The information that was gathered from the children`s narratives can enhance the work of practitioners in both forensic and clinical contexts.
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