Grace Carter

Abstract title: Developing the intervention evidence base for children who have experienced domestic violence: Prioritising children’s voices.

Author details: Dr Grace Carter, Coventry University, Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Keywords: domestic violence; qualitative research; evaluation; intervention; children and young people


Background & Context: Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is a global health problem and it is widely established that children and young people (CYP) can be negatively affected by experiencing DVA (Holt, Buckley, & Whelan, 2008; Potter & Feder, 2017). The current evidence base for interventions delivered in the United Kingdom (UK) targeted at children who have experienced DVA is underdeveloped and inconclusive (Howarth et al., 2016). Few qualitative studies have explored the experiences of those who receive or provide such interventions, and traditionally the voices of children are seldom prioritised in DVA intervention evaluation research (Callaghan, 2015). This paper presents some of the findings from a recently awarded doctoral thesis which explored, how intervention recipients and providers perceive interventions targeted at CYP who have experienced DVA, and how can the evidence base be developed and strengthened for these interventions.

Methodology: Thirty five in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with intervention stakeholders who had either received or delivered a psychotherapeutic intervention for children who had experienced DVA. The intervention was provided by a local DVA organisation in the north of England. The sample comprised:  children (n=3), parents (n=6) and intervention providers (n=12). The interviews were conducted whilst children attended the intervention and within 12 months post-intervention. The interviews were analysed using Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Findings: The key finding presented in this paper is that the voice of the child is paramount for informing the development and evidence base of interventions in the UK for children who have experienced DVA. When provided with the opportunity, children demonstrate their agency and creativity in how they have experienced an intervention, often in ways that are overlooked by adults, but are critical to understanding how an intervention is effective.

Implications: Prioritising the voices of CYP must be central to developing services and interventions which support them through their experience of DVA, and for evidencing what intervention processes and outcomes are effective and meaningful for them. This paper considers the implications of this in light of the key ethical and methodological challenges facing researchers and practitioners working in the field of DVA (Åkerlund & Gottzén, 2017; Øverlien & Holt, 2017). The paper concludes that prioritising the voice of the child is fundamental for informing the design, implementation, and evaluation of any intervention for CYP across the UK and globally.