Project Title(English) : Art as a language for children with traumatic experiences

Project Title(Chinese) : 藝術作為受創傷兒童的語言

Granting Agency: General Research Fund, The Research Grants Council, Hong Kong
Award number: 13600015
Investigators: Prof. LAW Suk Mun Sophia

Award date: 2015 -
Art, in its fundamental sense, is a language written in images. Its intrinsic and expressive nature is valuable for children whose language skills are still developing, and even more so for children who have had traumatic experiences. This project will study the use of art as a language in cases of childhood trauma. Childhood trauma is induced by conditions that shatter a child’s sense of safety and security, such as family violence, abuse (sexual, physical, verbal), neglect, serious illness or intrusive medical procedures. Children growing up under such conditions are constantly stressed by fear, pain and insecurity. It has been shown that childhood trauma can lead to personality and behavioural disorders as the child victim grows older (Bennett et al., 2005; van der Kolk, 2003; Leskela et al., 2002; Andrews et al., 2000). Owing to their limited and still developing cognitive and language abilities, children undergoing traumatic experiences cannot comprehend what is happening to them or make sense of the reality. Their confused and repressed emotions can exert a deep influence over their development of self-regulation, self-concept and interpersonal functioning (Cloitre et al., 2009). A fundamental focus of intervention for childhood trauma is to help children liberate and recognize their inner feelings. Most children, especially younger ones, cannot articulate their experiences and thoughts in words. Art, as a form of play, creates a non-verbal platform for children to disclose their abstract thinking and feelings through images. Their ways of creating as well as their final products are revelations about their perceptions of the world. Through these images, traumatised children can achieve a better understanding of themselves and their reality. In Hong Kong, statistics announced by the Social Welfare Department indicate that there are around 800 to 1000 newly reported child abuse cases annually. This number is just the tip of the iceberg, as most Chinese parents tend to deny abuse and avoid seeking help. This number also excludes those suffering from chronic or terminal illness. Local services for childhood trauma are mostly counseling services reliant mainly on verbal communication. This project will collaborate with relevant organisations or units to use art as a non-verbal platform in their services. Through a series of substantial art facilitation workshops specially designed for these children, the project will scrutinize the effects of creativity and art making among these children to determine whether this means of expression can help to improve their well being.

藝術作為受創傷兒童的語言 藝術的內在本質就是一種用圖像書寫的語言。對於語言能力還在發展的兒童來說,圖像書寫至為重要,尤其是那些心身飽受創傷的孩童如生長在家庭暴力或面對嚴重疾病的兒童。本計劃是研究藝術作為圖像書寫的本質,如何幫助心身受過創傷的孩童去表達他們的內在世界。 有研究顯示成長於不安全和穩定的生活環境如家暴或嚴重急疾的孩子長期生活在惶恐、驚嚇、焦慮、痛苦等情緒當中,長大後容易有病態的人格或行為表現(Bennett et. al., 2005; van der Kolk, 2003; Leskela, 2002; Andrews et. al., 2000)。這是因為孩童的語言和認知能力都尚待發展,沒有能力和辦法理解身邊發生的複雜事件,以致成長過程充斥著昏亂和被抑壓的情報,影響自信、自制自律和與人溝通的能力(Cloitre, 2009)。因此處理孩童創傷的基本要點之一是幫助受創傷的兒童去抒發和認識自己那無以明之的內在感受。藝術作為一種不依賴語言的遊戲平台,很適合兒童利用圖像去表達一些抽象的概念和情緒。他們所畫的圖像往往反映他們如何看待他們的世界,促進他們對自己和外在世界的認識。 根據一項社會福利署的調查報告, 香港每年約有八百至一千名受創傷兒童的新増個案。中國社會一般不會張揚家事,因此這數字只是冰山一角,而且這數字主要針對家暴,並未計算面對長期病患和急疾的兒童。社署現有的服務和支援主要是面談的輔導,這計劃將與相關的機構合作,將藝術倡導引進他們的服務,研究藝術作為語言的功用和成效。




Art as intervention in serving secondary child victims of family violence : introduction & manual, Suk Mun, Sophia LAW


說不出的痛 : 家暴兒童的內心世界, Suk Mun, Sophia LAW (羅淑敏)

Journal articles


Art as a language for children in need, Suk Mun, Sophia LAW

Newsletter articles


Colour my growth : a study of art as a language for victims of family violence, Suk Mun, Sophia LAW