Children’s Sense of Belonging in the Context of Post-separation Parental Stalking: Finnish Children’s Experiences of their Family Relations

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Drawing from previous research on domestic violence and stalking, this study addresses children’s experiences of their family relations in post-separation parental stalking contexts from the perspective of stalking as a form of violence against women and children. Despite the fact that violence perpetrated by a parent fundamentally changes family dynamics and children’s perceptions of family security, research on children’s family relations in the course of domestic violence or stalking has rarely addressed children’s sense of belonging. The aim of this paper is to augment our understanding of children’s experiences of family relations in connection with parental stalking. The research question is: How do children experience their belonging in family relations in the context of post-separation parental stalking? A total of 31 children and young people aged 2–21 participated in the study. The data were collected through interviews and therapeutic action group sessions with the children. The qualitative data analysis was content-oriented. Four dimensions of children’s sense of belonging were identified: (1) Varying belonging, (2) distancing belonging, (3) non-belonging and (4) holding belonging. The first three dimensions are constructed in relation to the child’s stalking father, while the fourth one includes the mother, siblings and other relationships that provide safety and comfort. The dimensions are parallel and not mutually exclusive. The study indicates that a finer-grained understanding of children’s sense of belonging in family relations is needed when social and health care and law enforcement professionals evaluate the child’s safety and best interest.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child & Adolescent Trauma
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Nov 2022
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Significant relationships
  • Child’s best interest
  • Children’s safety

Field of science

  • Social work


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