Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse reflected in Self-Figure drawings of Indian street children

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The present mixed-methods study aims to understand the extent to which emotional, physical and sexual abuse is reflected in the Self-Figure drawings of Indian street children by identifying pictorial indicators unique to each form of abuse. Following ethical approval and informed consent, 357 children across different states residing in shelter homes with a background of abuse were asked to draw themselves, complete the Medical Somatic Dissociation Questionnaire (MSDQ) and a life events scale in their regional language. Based on the rating of two art therapists on the level of obviousness, pictorial characteristics belonging to the specific form of abuse were ascertained. Results showed that nose, forehead and cheek/chin were significantly profound for physical and sexual abuse whereas eyes, arms/hands and genital area stood out for emotional abuse (p < 0.001). Significantly low somatization and depression were seen for emotional abuse (p < 0.001). Positive correlation was seen between MSDQ subscales of somatization, depression, total MSDQ score and indicators of forehead and cheek/chin (p < 0.01). Depression and total MSDQ score had a positive correlation with the indicator of ears. These differences reflected in the drawings can assist professionals in screening abused children reluctant to disclose aiding assessment and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101986
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Abuse detection
  • Child abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Self-figure drawing
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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