Fielding Graduate University
Research Poster Session at National Session 2011
The Role of Emotional Contagion and Flooding in the Group Process of Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
Catherine Hiltz, PhD, Alumna (2011), School of Psychology
The role emotional contagion and flooding has in group therapy for children traumatized by domestic violence (DV)—psychological, physical, and/or sexual abuse—was examined. Participants were 123 children (ages 6-12) of women battered by a male partner who participated in a group therapy intervention. Information about the children’s adjustment and exposure to DV was collected from the mothers at three time points. Narrative responses were also collected after each session from the group therapists about group process. Emotional contagion and flooding occurred during the majority of the sessions, most frequently involved the expression of anxiety, and related to an increase in group participation or cohesion. Session topics and interactions were the most common precipitating factor to emotional contagion and flooding, and cohesion or bonding was the most commonly reported outcome. Emotional contagion and flooding was most likely to occur when the session topic was: Identifying Feelings, Saying Goodbye, and Safety Planning. Emotional contagion and flooding with the expression of negative emotions predicted greater group success with session goals, with group variables being the strongest predictors. When child characteristics were controlled, then group variables were stronger predictors of group success with session goals. Paired with previous research, the findings of this study further demonstrate that the group intervention has multiple positive or protective benefits that foster more favorable develop of children exposed to DV, especially for children whose mothers also participate in the parent component of the program.
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