Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Applied Psychology




College of Science & Mathematics


Frisone, John


Brothers and sisters; Children of abused wives; Victims of family violence; Wife abuse




Many studies discuss how the emotional trauma experienced by children of divorcing parents is buffered by the presence of siblings. The present study examines whether there is a similar buffering sibling effect for child witnesses to domestic violence if there is an older sibling present in the household. This study examined the differences between first born children including only children and younger siblings who have witnessed domestic violence. The Trauma Symptom Checklist and the Child Behavior Checklist were administered to 102 children aged 3-11 whose parent received shelter or outreach counseling at a New Jersey battered women's shelter. Demographic information was obtained through parent and child interviews. The Parenting Stress Index was administered to the child's parent. All measures were administered upon admission to the program and following a six-month intensive treatment program, consisting of individual and group therapy in two primary modalities of drama and art. No significant differences emerged related to birth order on the development of internalizing or externalizing behavior problems. No differences were found upon admission between first born and later born children. Yet, beneficial effects of treatment were found in both first born as well as younger born children. This indicates that the PALS Project intervention for child witnesses of domestic violence significantly reduces the negative symptoms of witnessing domestic violence for first born as well as later born children. Results are discussed in terms of the absence of any sibling buffering effect.

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