Play therapy behaviors and themes in physically abused, sexually abused, and nonabused children.
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The current study examined the effect of abuse history and gender on the frequency of 5 play themes constellations (control themes, negative affect, sexual play, hypervigilance, and aggression) exhibited in play therapy. The study included 63 children ranging in age from 3 to 5 years. Crosstabs and Chi-Squares were used to analyze demographic characteristics. The researcher conducted ANOVAs, Tukey multiple comparisons, and tests of simple effects to identify significant main or simple effects for each constellation. Correlational analyses were conducted on themes and constellations to determine the validity of the constellations. The results indicated no significant main or simple effects for control themes, sexual play, or hypervigilance. For the negative affect constellation, the physically abused sample showed significantly more frequent themes of negative affect than the nonabused sample. For the aggression constellation, a medium effect was found for gender, with boys playing out significantly more frequent aggression themes than girls. Analyses of the hypervigilance constellation revealed that physically and sexually abused children played out more frequent themes of hypervigilance than nonclinical children.