College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)

Department

Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Jan Faust

Second Advisor

Steven N. Gold

Third Advisor

Christian DeLucia

Keywords

Abuse, Child sexual abuse, Contextual theory of abuse/trauma, Family environment, Structural equation modeling, Trauma

Abstract

Much of the research on childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has utilized demographic factors (e.g., the gender, age, and race/ethnicity of the child victim) and specific characteristics of the abusive experience (e.g., the severity of abuse, the relationship between the perpetrator and the child victim, the child's age at the onset of abuse, etc.) as predictors of children's adjustment. Unfortunately, the ability of such factors to predict children's adjustment consistently across studies has been limited. Alternatively, while it has been recognized that survivors of CSA often hail from dysfunctional family environments and that the disclosure of CSA frequently results in emotional distress for caregivers, less research has focused on how these factors may serve to influence sexually abused children's adjustment. This study included 163 sexually abused youth and their non-offending caregivers who completed measures of psychological adjustment and the family environment. Demographic information and abuse-related characteristics were also collected. Children's age, gender, and race/ethnicity were not significantly predictive of emotional adjustment. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the direct and indirect effects of total abuse severity, caregiver distress, and children's perceptions of their family environments as predictors of emotional adjustment. Results indicated that both children's perceptions of their family environments and total abuse severity were significantly predictive of children's emotional adjustment, whereas caregiver distress did not have significant direct or indirect effect on adjustment. Finally, the implications of these findings for future research and the development of effective interventions for sexually abused children and their families was discussed

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