The effect of a maternal history of sexual abuse on support from the child's perspective following child sexual abuse

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Heather Nicole Styles-Turbyfill (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
David Solomon

Abstract: Previous research has exhibited the impact that maternal support has on children following instances of child sexual abuse (CSA; Cyr, McDuff, & Hébert, 2013; Valentino, Berkowitz, & Stover, 2010). However, it remains unclear as to what degree a maternal caregiver’s history of abuse effects their ability to provide support for their child following instances of CSA. Few previous studies have been able to draw consistent conclusions concerning the effect of a maternal history of abuse on support provided for CSA victims (Smith et al., 2017). The current study examined these factors using the Maternal Support Questionnaire- Child Report (MSQ-CR; Smith et al., 2017), an established measure of maternal support as indicated from the child’s perspective. The MSQ-CR separates CSA-specific maternal support into the following three subscales: Emotional Support, Skeptical Preoccupation, and Protection/Retaliation. Multiple correlations and hierarchical linear regressions were executed to examine the effect that maternal histories of childhood physical abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and/or romantic partner physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse had on maternal support following cases of CSA. Additionally, variables supported by previous research as influencing maternal support following CSA were accounted for to gain a more accurate perspective on the potential impact of a maternal abuse history on support (Cyr et al., 2003; Cyr et al., 2013; Smith et al., 2010). These variables included maternal relationship with the abuser, maternal relationship with parents, maternal-caregiver child relationship quality, child age, and child gender. Results from the study supported previous research exhibiting the impact of maternal caregiver relationship with the perpetrator of her child’s abuse as well as maternal caregiver-child relationship quality on maternal support. Regarding variables related to a maternal history of abuse, childhood physical abuse, romantic partner physical abuse, and/or romantic partner sexual abuse histories were shown to be the largest predictors of various aspects of maternal support. Specifically, maternal caregivers within the study with a history of childhood physical abuse tended to provide increased levels of emotional support, leading to the increased overall perception of maternal support from the child’s perspective. Maternal caregivers with a history of romantic partner physical abuse also tended to provide increased levels of emotional support, leading to increased overall support. However, caregivers with such a history additionally exhibited increased levels of skeptical preoccupation and protection and retaliation as measured by the MSQ-CR; thus, leading to decreased levels of overall perceived support. Maternal caregivers with a history of romantic partner sexual abuse tended to exhibit decreased levels of skeptical preoccupation, leading to an increase in overall maternal support. These results highlight previously overlooked factors impacting maternal support following CSA and exhibit the potential influence of a maternal history of abuse in childhood and/or adulthood. The results from the present study can be further utilized to refine clinical interventions to promote increased maternal support and improve child CSA victim outcomes.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Abuse, Child outcomes, Child Sexual Abuse, Maternal history, Maternal support, Trauma
Adult child abuse victims
Adult child sexual abuse victims
Abused women
Mothers of sexually abused children
Mother and child
Sexually abused children
Child abuse -- Psychological aspects
Child psychology

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