Qualities of Children’s Fear in Therapeutic Action Groups Addressing Post-separation Parental Stalking

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This paper examines the way in which parental stalking — as a form of domestic abuse — raises fear in children and affects their sense of safety. The study draws on three therapeutic action groups involving 13 children who have experienced stalking by their fathers/stepfathers after the parents’ separation. The research question is as follows: How does children’s sense of fear manifest in therapeutic action groups? The qualitative analysis revealed three qualities of fear among the children: (1) internalised, (2) constant and (3) episodic. Internalised fear appeared as a child’s mental state that materialised as an overwhelming sentiment in the group sessions and elsewhere. Constant fear activated at times, and the senses of fear and security alternated both in the sessions and elsewhere. Episodic fear related to the children’s memories of violent events and father’s stalking behaviour. The children were able to sense security in the group and in daily life owing to a temporal distance to their father’s stalking. Our findings underscore the importance of professionals’ awareness of the qualities of children’s fear and the significance of assessing their fear and sense of safety in a child-centered manner in therapeutic practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2022
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • fear
  • stalking
  • post-separation period
  • children
  • therapeutic group intervention
  • trauma psychotherapy

Field of science

  • Social work


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