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Community-Based Group Interventions for Women and Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence


Delivery Approach:
  • Group
  • Dyadic
Delivery Format:
  • In-Person
Provider Requirements:
  • Licensed/Certified Professional Led
Type of Experience Addressed:
  • Domestic Violence
  • Substance Abusing Caregiver
  • Verbal/Emotional Abuse
Engagement Methods:
  • Talk-based
Level of Intervention:
  • Intervention
  • Tertiary Prevention
  • Less than 6 weeks
  • Homeless Shelter
  • Community Based Agency
  • Other Settings (see Program Details)
Program Details:
Type of services provided:

Two community-based group interventions for women and children exposed to domestic violence, a goal-oriented group intervention and an emotion-focus group intervention were compared.

The goal-oriented group intervention integrated cognitive behavioral approaches with components utilized in motivational interviewing. Women and children, in their separate groups, chose a goal to work on that related to decreasing non-adaptive coping strategies and/or increasing adaptive strategies.

The emotion-focused group intervention employed an integrated cognitive behavioral process to educate and empower mothers and children regarding relationships, emotions and coping and a gestalt approach to process information within the relational context of the group. The five-week educational curriculum focused on healthy and nonhealthy relationships and the influence of non-adaptive and adaptive strategies.

A parallel process was developed for the children’s group that helped children to identify emotions and express emotions, enhance their understanding of the behaviors of self and other related to wants, needs and feelings, develop coping strategies, understand what abuse is and learn strategies for staying safe.

The joint family group sessions, which followed the mothers’ and children’s groups after a brief break, continued the session theme of each respective intervention.

Program setting:

Women and children exposed to intimate partner violence (domestic violence) were recruited from family homeless shelters to participate in the community-based groups.

Length of program/number of sessions:

5 weeks; one session weekly; women-only groups met for 60 minutes and children-only groups met for 45 minutes; co-facilitated joint family sessions for women and children were 60 minutes

Type(s) of trauma/concerns addressed:

Domestic violence

Symptoms addressed:

Non-adaptive coping strategies of mothers including substance abuse, family violence perpetration and self-isolation; posttraumatic stress and other frequently observed consequences of exposure to domestic violence for children

Education level of providers:

Master’s level therapists and counselors

Additional information:


Unique/Innovative Characteristics:

This study evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of two brief interventions for women and children in a shelter setting. Positive outcomes were demonstrated for children and mothers.

Date Added/Updated:


Population Served

  • 6-12 (Childhood)
Population Language:
  • English
Ethnic Racial Group:
  • Indigenous People – American Indian/Native American, Alaskan Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • White
  • Child
  • Child and Non-abusive Parent/Caregiver
  • Survivor parent
Population Adaptations:
Age range of children served:

6-12 years old

Are parent/adult caregiver(s) included in intervention?


Ethnic/racial and other groups served:

Study sample included Latino, African American, Native American and Asian American women

Specific cultural adaptations:

None indicated

Languages that service/resource is available:

Not indicated


Goals of the program/services:

Two community-based group interventions for women and children were compared in an evaluation study to assess their effectiveness to reduce family violence and increase psychosocial well-being of women and children exposed to domestic violence by addressing posttraumatic coping strategies.

Evaluation Studies:
Has there been any evaluation?

The interventions were compared in a randomized trial utilizing a multiple focused experimental validity design. Mothers and children were randomized assigned to the goal-oriented or emotion-focused intervention and were blinded to treatment assignment for duration of the study. There was no control group for comparison.

Key evaluation results:

Children in both treatment groups reported decreases in family and peer conflict (arguments within the family) and increases in emotional well-being, peer connections and self-esteem.

Women in both intervention groups reported decreased family conflict. Greater decreases for family conflict were reported by women in the goal-oriented intervention compared to the emotion-focused intervention. Improved social support was reported by women in both treatment groups with greater improvement in the emotion-focused intervention compared to the goal-oriented intervention.

Women in both intervention groups reported decrease in depression and increases in family bonding and self-efficacy.

Women in both intervention groups also reported increased self-efficacy for discontinuing alcohol use and increased readiness to change alcohol consumption.

Is there an evaluation currently in progress or planned?

Not indicated

Publications about the program:

McWhirter PT. 2011. Differential Therapeutic Outcomes of Community-Based Group Interventions for Women and Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(12), 2457-2482.

Rated/Reviewed by Evidence Based Registries:


Training & Resources

Training Language:
  • Not indicated
Training Available
  • Not indicated
Training Details:
Training manuals/protocols:

None indicated. Standardized treatment protocols for women and children were developed for both of the group interventions.

Training Contact:

None specified.

Program Contact

Paula McWhirter