Parental Representations in the Play of Preschool Aged Witnesses of Marital Violence

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Domestic violence, Parental representations, Preschool children, Father visitation, Play

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The play of young children has long been used clinically to understand children’s experiences and inner feelings. More recently, children’s play has been examined quantitatively to understand differences due to varying backgrounds, family relationships, etc. Forty preschool children (21 girls and 19 boys) aged 27 to 71 months from families with histories of domestic violence were observed using a play interview, The MacArthur Story Stem Battery, to determine if severity of violence, frequency of visitation with their previously violent fathers, and mother-child relationship functioning impacted how parents were represented in play. Overall, girls represented their parents more positively regardless of other family circumstances. Boys, especially those who did not visit regularly with their fathers, had negative representations of their mothers. Severity of violence did not predict negative parental representations in the sample.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Family Violence, v. 21, issue 6, p. 417–424