Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


College of Psychology

First Advisor

Lenore Walker

Second Advisor

David Shapiro

Third Advisor

Ryan Black




Child abuse (CA) is an epidemic that often leads to mental health outcomes including increased vulnerability to future victimization and intimate partner violence (IPV) (Briere & Elliot, 2003). The purpose of this study was to determine if CA would have more of a psychological impact on IPV survivors who had experienced CA than those who had not. Another purpose of this study was to evaluate secure attachment as a form of resiliency and insecure attachment as a risk factor for developing post-traumatic stress. It was hypothesized that incarcerated female survivors of IPV would have a significantly higher proportion of CA than the proportion of CA in the general population. It was hypothesized that women who had endured abuse as children would have higher rates of sexual dysfunction, poor body image, and insecure attachment styles, than the women who had not experienced CA. Lastly, it was hypothesized that the relation between post-traumatic stress and IPV survivors who had or had not been abused as children would depend on attachment style. A sample of 277 incarcerated female survivors of IPV completed the Battered Woman Syndrome Questionnaire-3 (BWSQ-3). As hypothesized, the proportion of CA in the sample was significantly higher than the proportion of CA in the general population. As predicted, the women in the CA group experienced greater body shame than the women in the no CA group; however, they did not differ in their beliefs about body control or how they perceive themselves as an outside observer. The women did not differ on sexual satisfaction. The CA group scored higher on insecure attachment and lower on secure attachment than the no CA group. Attachment style was not a moderator; however, after taking into account CA, Anxiety attachment was significantly associated with post-traumatic stress. Additionally, the CA group had significantly higher mean scores on post-traumatic stress than the no CA group. In conclusion, CA resulted in greater body shame, fear of rejection in relationships, and discomfort with trusting and getting close to others. However, these trauma survivors did not differ on surveillance, control beliefs, and sexual satisfaction, suggesting resiliency in CA survivors.

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