Domestic violence prevention for children: an evaluation of a primary school based programme

Farrelly, Nicola orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9006-335X (2020) Domestic violence prevention for children: an evaluation of a primary school based programme. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Domestic violence is a phenomenon which affects a significant proportion of children across the globe. In response to its extensive scale and social consequences primary prevention emerged as a key strategy to end domestic violence. A recent shift in UK government policy resulted in statutory relationships education, for all children in primary schools in England and Wales from September 2020. As prevention education on domestic violence would be located within the relationships education curriculum this is a significant development, yet very little evidence exists regarding the effectiveness of interventions for younger children which tackle the range of issues within relationships education. This study aims to address this gap by providing evidence of the effectiveness and acceptability of a programme currently being delivered to children aged 10 to 11 in London primary schools.
Eighty children participated in this mixed-method evaluation across three London primary schools: pre and post programme surveys explored children’s knowledge of programme topics and a six month follow up survey data tested for longer term effects. Observations of programme delivery examined children’s and adults’ reactions, comments and behaviours. Focus groups including 29 children, and interviews with six programme facilitators, three teachers and four parents explored perceptions of the programme and its impact. Drama-based activities emerged as an important factor in children’s engagement. Programme topics were acceptable to most children, although a minority expressed discomfort around material on sexual abuse. Improved relationships were reported amongst children in one school following the programme. Most children held existing positive attitudes in relation to: gender equality; managing conflict; peer pressure; seeking help. Improvements in attitudes were perceptible in relation to: breaking promises to friends; challenging adult authority; good and bad touch.
Feminist and childhood sociological theories enabled school-based prevention programmes to be conceptualised as a tool for the empowerment of children by encouraging them to recognise and assert their rights and to actively seek support in the context of child-adult power relations. Understandings of children as dynamic social actors require programmes to employ participatory approaches which appeal to children in their current, rather than future lives. Adopting a whole-school approach through the engagement of all members of the school community would be a consequence and means of developing readiness for effective school-based prevention work.

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