Groupwork interventions for women and children experiencing domestic abuse: Do they work and do they last?

Stephanie Holt, Gloria Kirwan, Jane Ngo


This paper draws selectively on the findings of a study exploring the impact of a concurrent groupwork programme for mothers and children (6-7 years of age) who have experienced domestic abuse. This group was delivered by statutory child and welfare services in Ireland in conjunction with a voluntary sector child support service. This paper illustrates how participation in the groupwork programme impacted positively on the relationship between the participating mothers and their children and also explores what benefits were sustained over time. Employing a mixed methods approach, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected from three distinct populations and at three points in time. The findings of this study confirm the usefulness of the group environment in helping participants share the full extent of their personal experiences in a therapeutic and supportive setting. Participant outcomes included pro-social modelling of positive parenting, awareness raising and information sharing regarding the impact of the experience of domestic abuse on both child development and parenting capacity. These factors were reported by participants to have impacted on the quality of the mother-child relationship. This paper concludes by highlighting the key features of the groupwork programme which were central to facilitating and sustaining these positive outcomes.

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