Longitudinal evaluation of services to families following the experience of child sexual abuse
In this research project, the centre looked at a sample of 42 children and young people across eight Action for Children projects. The sample consisted of 13 males and 29 females referred and assessed during the initial data collection period. At referral, the project staff completed a baseline referral data form. A 'Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire' (Goodman, 1997) was completed by a parent or carer or the child / young person themselves.
To assess outcomes of the intervention, a follow-up questionnaire was completed either when the subject's case was closed or at a 12-month follow-up date (whichever came first).
The evaluation featured a single group longitudinal pre-test / post-test design to enable assessment of changes in behaviour and emotional problems in children and young people following intervention. An activity workbook was designed to capture the views of the subjects. Three children (two girls and a boy) took part.
Between the baseline assessment and the follow-up assessment, statistically significant improvements occurred in the display of sexualised behaviour and self-harming behaviour and a slightly smaller number of children / young people than previously were involved with other therapeutic services. There were significantly lower numbers of children / young people who displayed violent or aggressive behaviour, experienced sleep problems or had nightmares.
Mental health symptoms, social relationships, emotions and feelings were assessed using the 'Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire' (SDQ). We found significant decreases in the total difficulties experienced by the children / young people and a significantly reduced negative impact of these difficulties on daily routines. The SDQ data also indicated fewer emotional problems following intervention. In contrast, the initial assessment, at follow-up, the majority of children / young people (between 61% and 86%) scored within the normal bands of the SDQ.
Children reported more positive feelings after attending therapy than before. However, a number of negative feelings still persisted. The children believed that others saw them as much happier and more 'normal' than they felt inside. A number of daily events were improved after received therapy.
All three children claimed that their worry had reduced. Two children believed that their behaviour towards siblings and carers had worsened. One child reported that although other people saw their behaviour as good, they themselves felt their behaviour was bad. The fact that children can recognise this discrepancy between internal feelings and the way that others see them may indeed be a positive impact of therapy. The most resoundingly positive outcome that the children reported after attending therapy is that they felt optimistic about their future. None of the children commented on any aspect of the project in a negative way.