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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.

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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

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To support the take-up of evidence, ANROWS offers a range of resources developed from research to support practitioners and policy-makers in delivering evidence-based interventions.


RF.19.01

The ‘Safe Nest Group’ pilot project – early intervention for mothers and infants leaving family violence

Project length
2 years


This pilot study is evaluating the effectiveness of a community-based early intervention program for women and their children (0 to 3 years) exposed to family violence who are living in a refuge or transitional housing.

The “Safe Nest Group” (SNG) program is adapted from the Peek-a-Boo Club™ model (Bunston et al., 2016). It is a closed, “infant-led” group intervention for mother–infant dyads who have left violent relationships and are staying in a refuge or other stable transitional housing.

The program is run at Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network in Melbourne.


The specific aims of the research are to:

  • Examine the impact of the SNG program on maternal depression, stress and anxiety (i.e., maternal wellbeing).
  • Determine whether the SNG program reduces trauma symptoms (i.e., dissociation) experienced by the mother.
  • Examine the impact of the SNG program on relational withdrawal behaviours in the infant.
  • Determine the impact of the SNG program on the quality of the mother–child relationship.
  • Explore mothers’ subjective experience of the SNG program, including their satisfaction with the content and delivery of the program.


Methods

This research is using a mixed methods pre-, post- and follow-up single group design. Questionnaire data are being collected at baseline, post-group, and at one-month follow-up. The pilot project study will run across four SNG groups, with a maximum of six mother–infant dyads per group.

The following measures are being used:

  • Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS-21; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995)
  • Shutdown Dissociation Scale (Shut-D; Shauer & Albert, 2010)
  • Alarm Distress Baby Scale© (ADBB; Guedeney & Fermanian, 2001)
  • Parent–Infant Relationship Global Assessment Scale (PIRGAS)
  • International Trauma Questionnaire (Cloitre et al., 2018).

A qualitative interview has been designed specifically for this pilot study to explore mothers’ subjective experience of being in the group, as well as their experience of their relationship with their infant.

Significance

The findings of this project will help to better understand the needs of mothers and their infants who have been impacted by family violence and are living in a refuge or transitional housing. This is in line with a key recommendation from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (State of Victoria, 2016) that more needs to be done to support women and their children who have been exposed to such violence in the early intervention space. The implementation of the Safe Nest Group with culturally and linguistically diverse women in transitional housing will also impact other service delivery models. That is, if proven to be effective, the program could be expanded to a range of other community-based organisations accessed by women and children affected by family violence.


Researchers

Project lead

Dr Katie Wood, Swinburne University of Technology

Research expertise

Associate Professor Rebecca Giallo, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Dr Alison Fogarty, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Bianca Morrison, Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network

Emma Hodges, Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network

Practice expertise

Emerge: Women and Children’s Support Network

Budget

$119,890

This project is funded by ANROWS Research Fund to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (Philanthropic – Luke Batty Legacy).

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