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Finding resources about child witnesses of interpersonal violence

Studies indicate that 3 to 4 million children witness domestic violence annually. Children can be frightened, depressed or traumatized, and often suffer feelings of guilt and shame as a result of exposure to family violence, even if they do not suffer abuse themselves. It can pose a lifelong psychological burden, but also can be formative of similarly abusive behaviors as adults.

CALiO™ offers a wealth of resources pertaining to children’s exposure to domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. In addition to the new NCAC Fact Sheet and a bibliography on the topic, CALiO™Collections includes up to date scholarly articles and research publications about the incidence, prevention and intervention, psychological and behavioral effects, and treatment options for children who witness family violence.

How can you effectively identify those publications?

First, remember that everything in CALiO™Collections deals with children. There is no need to use any search terminology to focus the results of your search on children. (This is not the case behind the CAC login, which covers a wide spectrum of social and behavioral sciences.)

Second, let’s think about what terminology we do need to use. There are two word variants commonly used by authors when discussing this subject.

exposed, exposure, exposing
witness, witnesses, witnessed, witnessing

You could just arbitrarily toss all those words in the search box and hope for the best, but it’s better to let the computer do the work for you.

You can instruct the computer to provide you with all variants on a word by means of a technique (warning: librarian jargon) called “truncation.” We truncate the word and use an asterisk to instruct the computer to look for all words that have additional letters. Like this:

expos*
witness*

And we can instruct the computer to give us any publications using either words that begin with expos* or words that begin with witness* by simply inserting OR (in CAPS) between the two root words.

So, your search strategy would look like this:

expos* OR witness*

That’s it. Just click Submit or tap the Enter key. You will find that all of the resulting publications relate to our topic – with one caveat. Since children can also be witnesses in court proceedings, there will be some publications retrieved pertaining to that subject. But this simple search strategy works so well that it is easy to skim over those few.

You can use truncation and the OR operator for searching in any specialized bibliographic database, as these are standard techniques adopted decades ago. The technique does NOT work in Google, which is a different kind of critter altogether.

Future editions of this blog will introduce more tips for optimizing your searches.

David King, MS, PhD

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