College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

1-1-2009

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)

Department

Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Helen Orvaschel

Second Advisor

Edward R Simco

Third Advisor

Ana I Fins

Keywords

child sexual abuse, parenting

Abstract

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with various immediate and long-term effects, including interpersonal maladjustment. Research has demonstrated a relationship between CSA and subsequent parenting outcomes, such as feeling less confident in the parenting role or being more likely to use harsh discipline practices. The current study examined the relationship between CSA and subsequent parenting skills, specifically perceived parenting competence and parenting practices. This study also examined the potential internalizing, externalizing, and overall problems in children of mothers sexually abused in childhood. Taking into consideration the failure in the literature to account for the role of other variables in determining parenting difficulties, this study examined the mediational role of childhood physical abuse and maternal depression on the parenting outcomes of mothers. The findings of this study indicated that sexually abused mothers did not significantly differ from nonabused mothers in how effective they felt as mothers. Contrary to the hypotheses, the results did not suggest that CSA mothers were more lax or over reactive than their nonabused counterparts. However, the findings revealed that compared to nonabused mothers, sexually abused mothers were more likely to employ hostile parenting practices. In addition, the results of the current study revealed that CSA mothers who reported being more lax in their parenting were more likely to have children who exhibited more externalizing and internalizing behavior problems as compared to the control group. In contrast, there were no significant correlations found between the parenting practices of nonabused mothers and their children's behaviors. The results provided support for maternal depression as a mediator in the relationship between CSA and parenting practices, specifically over reactivity and hostility. Maternal depression did not mediate the relationship between CSA and maternal self-efficacy, or between CSA and laxness. This study found support for the role of childhood physical abuse (CPA) as a mediator in the link from CSA to hostile parenting. However, the findings did not suggest that CPA mediated the relationship between CSA and the other parenting outcomes under study. Possible interpretations of the results are presented. Clinical implications and directions for future research are also discussed.

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