Shadow Play Therapy for preadolescents with externalizing behavior problems

Lai Man Julia SHUM

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Many studies have demonstrated the clinical efficacy of Play Therapy for preadolescents with behavioral disorders. However, there is a significant lack of evidence on behavioral adjustment evaluation studies for behavioral disorders conducted in community settings. The present study is a follow-up treatment from school referrals for preadolescents who were not categorized as having clinical problem behaviors, but whose parents sought counselling services for them. This study investigated the impact of child-centered play, with group play and individual play in the same session. It was arranged for the preadolescents to perform behind a curtain. To reflect this, the intervention is called Shadow Play Therapy. It enhanced parent-child relationships by setting parent-child playtime at home.

Objective: To determine the effectiveness of Shadow Play Therapy in: (1) improving self-concept, (2) increasing self-expression of preadolescents experiencing adjustment difficulties, (3) decreasing externalizing behavior problems, and (4) enhancing behavioral adjustment to the peer group with the knowledge or skills learnt from the program, (5) analyzing the participants’ belief, attitudes and behaviors through observations and qualitative data analysis.

Method: 20 preadolescents referred by play therapy clinic providers and 10 preadolescents to participate in a six-session (12-hour) behavioral management group. Another 10 preadolescents would be the control group. They were all assigned randomly. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from group play, individual play, and parent-child playtime.

Main Result: Preadolescents’ externalizing behavior problems were reduced after group play and individual play, and parent-child relationships were enhanced through an increase in creative art communication.

Quantitative results demonstrated significant differences between pre and post testing on Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and Filial Problem Checklist (FPC) outcomes. Support by the qualitative results which were provided by the therapists demonstrated the improvement in decreasing the behavior problems. On the other hand, suggestions for parent-child communication from qualitative results and the
later on review sessions demonstrated the improvement of parent-child relationship and the improvement in decreasing the behavior problems. That meant the target problematic behaviors were also reduced at home. There were also significant differences determined by length of parent-child playtime.

Conclusions: The quality of parent-child communication was found to be positively correlated with preadolescent behavior problems. The findings support the value of Shadow Play Therapy group and individual play sessions as a way to provide information for parent-child communication. Results are discussed concerning implications for clinical practice and further research. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • LAM, Chi Ming 林志明, Supervisor
  • WONG, Ping Ho, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Child-centered play therapy
  • Group play
  • Individual play
  • Externalizing behavior problems
  • Self-concept
  • Self-control
  • Preadolescent
  • Chinese
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2018.


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