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January 2022

Incest markers in children's artwork

Author(s): Phelps, Randy E.

Journal/Book: Arts in Psychotherapy. 1985; 12: 265-283.

Abstract: Studied the projective drawings of 166 4-18 yr olds to determine incest markers. 89 Ss were victims of sexual abuse (incest group), while 77 Ss had been referred for treatment of emotional problems but were not victims (clinic group). In Exp I, a house-tree-person drawing, a drawing of the family engaged in some activity, and a free drawing were collected from each S and were rated by 2 research staff members. In Exp II, 40 sets of drawings by the incest group and 40 sets from the clinic group were rated by 4 art therapists. Exp I's results support the hypothesis that more features would be present in the drawings of sexually abused Ss than in those made by the other Ss. These differences were statistically but not clinically significant. Poor interrater percentage agreement reliabilities were found in Exp II, the results of which raise doubts about the validity of Exp I results.

Note: art therapist's vs research staff member's ratings of incest markers in house tree person vs family vs free drawing; 4 18 yr olds who were victims of sexual abuse vs referred for treatment of emotional problems

Keyword(s): Projective techniques; clinical judgment not diagnosis; art therapy; child abuse; incest ; pictorial stimuli; interrater reliability; childhood ; adolescence


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