The impact of bibliotherapy superheroes on youth who experience parental absence

Nurit Betzalel, Zipora Shechtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As one key element of establishing a superhero persona, many superhero myths are based on the principle of experiencing parental loss at an early age. This study examined the impact of group bibliotherapy using superhero stories with children and adolescents who have experienced parental absence. The 187 participants who resided in foster care were divided into three experimental conditions: Bibliotherapy with superhero stories, bibliotherapy without superheroes, and no treatment. Four dependent variables were tested in a pre–post–follow-up design: Anxiety, violent behavior, aggression, and future orientations. Results indicated that the strongest desired outcomes were obtained in the superhero treatment condition: There were significant positive changes on all four dependent variables, with changes sustained at follow-up. In the other treatment condition, significant changes were observed on only two variables and were not sustained at follow-up. No significant changes were observed in the non-treatment group. On the future orientations scale, only children in the superhero condition indicated change: They gained in future goals and had reduced fantasies about home. In general, results support the effectiveness of bibliotherapy with children and clearly point to the unique contribution of bibliotherapy content tailored to children's specific needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-490
Number of pages18
JournalSchool Psychology International
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.


  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • bibliotherapy
  • foster care
  • future orientation
  • parental loss
  • superhero

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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