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Emotional Distress Among Mothers Whose Children Have Been Sexually Abused: The Role of a History of Child Sexual Abuse, Social Support, and Coping

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 22 Issue: 5 Dated: May 1998 Pages: 423-435
D Hiebert-Murphy
Date Published
14 pages
Information provided by 102 Canadian women whose children disclosed child sexual abuse was analyzed to determine the relationships between these mothers' emotional distress following the disclosure and their history of childhood sexual abuse, their social support, and their coping strategies.
The participants completed a sexual abuse history questionnaire, the Provision of Social Relations Scale, and Coping Responses Inventory, the Brief Symptom Inventory, and a questionnaire requesting descriptive data. As predicted, results indicated that the mother's emotional distress was related to a history of childhood sexual abuse, a history of adolescent sexual abuse, a lack of support from friends and family, and greater use of coping strategies of avoidance. In addition, reliance on avoidance coping strategies predicted distress after controlling for both the childhood sexual abuse history and her social support. Findings indicated that the distress experienced by mothers following a disclosure of sexual abuse is related to the mothers' personal histories of child sexual abuse, the social support they receive, and the coping strategies they use to deal with their children's disclosures. Findings suggested the need for greater attention to psychosocial variables that can aid practitioners in explaining the variability in mothers' distress and that might suggest potential interventions. Tables and 70 references (Author abstract modified)