Date of Award

Winter 12-21-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Dr. Phyllis Solomon

Second Advisor

Dr. Victoria Frye



Evaluating the effectiveness of The Body’s Story in Building Resilience in

School-aged Children Exposed to Violence

Sara Onuma Kotzin, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Phyllis Solomon, Dissertation Chair, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Victoria Frye, Dissertation Committee Member, The City College of New York

Objective: The trauma associated with children’s exposure to violence (CEV) in the home, school and community, includes a complex web of emotional, social, and academic ruptures, which can derail healthy development if left unaddressed. Applying the tenets of a public health response to this complicated social problem, The Body’s Story was developed as a short-term structured modality promoting somatic awareness, emotional connection and self-regulation through play and story. The study hypothesized that elementary public school children who participated in the universal, trauma-responsive, clinician-led intervention, The Body’s Story, would have a greater increase in resilience and a greater decrease in symptoms of trauma when compared to the control group who received a modified social emotional learning (SEL) program. A trauma-informed training for teachers and supporting staff was hypothesized to enhance the benefits of The Body’s Story intervention and the modified SEL.

Methods: The intervention was studied as an exploratory pilot program using a quasi-experimental group design with twenty-six children (n=12 experimental intervention; n=14 control condition) in the sample. Measures employed were the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire - Child Form (SDQ-Child) and Adult form (SDQ-Adult) and The Child’s Hope Scale (CHS) as pre-and post-test questionnaires, at baseline, termination and one-month follow-up. Bivariate and multivariable tests were used to test the impact of the intervention on the SDQ and CHS.

Results: The pre-and two post-test scores did not show any statistically significant difference between the intervention and the control groups in increasing resilience nor a decrease in symptoms of trauma after participating in The Body’s Story as hypothesized.

Conclusion: These findings are understood with the acknowledgement that this is a new domain of study and there has been little research on the effectiveness of classroom-based trauma-informed approaches. Research examining multi-disciplinary approaches points to the need for trauma-informed practice to be delivered in schools in a comprehensive, collaborative and flexible way to address the complicated effects of trauma on youth within a frame of strength and resilience. Implementing a brief program in a setting not already trauma-informed, may have conflicted with the tenets of a trauma-sensitive approach, and potentially reduced the impact of the intervention. Clinical implications for school social workers include support for integrating a trauma lens universally into work with students as well as training school personnel in order to normalize a trauma-sensitive culture throughout educational institutions is discussed