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22-09-2016 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2017

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2017

Review of Nonverbal Communication in Parent–Child Relationships: Assessment and Intervention

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2017
Vivienne M. Colegrove, Sophie S. Havighurst


Nonverbal processes are crucial to parent–child communication, but are seldom the focus of therapeutic intervention once a child is over 12 months of age. This paper reviews the literature on nonverbal communication in parent–child interaction. We outline assessment tools and interventions designed to measure and improve nonverbal communication, identify gaps in publications describing existing practice, and discuss implications for further intervention research and development. We searched Medline and PsycInfo databases for theoretical and empirical articles that defined, conceptualized, measured and intervened with parent–child nonverbal interaction. Although we found a number of validated and reliable assessment measures, these were not routinely used to inform development of interventions that directly targeted nonverbal communication. Additionally, we identified very few interventions that met established criteria for evidence-based practice, that directly focused on nonverbal communication as a target for change. Interventions that were included in this review utilized play, creative arts mediums and psycho-education to work therapeutically with nonverbal processes. Given the importance of nonverbal communication for effective parenting and parent–child communication, we recommend that nonverbal communication is assessed and addressed explicitly as a core part of parent–child intervention, development and evaluation. Intervention development may additionally be informed by existing nonverbal assessment tools, many of which already have established good reliability and validity, and therefore may assist with intervention as well as outcome measurement.

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