Survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) can experience psychological problems that include posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, substance use, and risky sexual behavior. Many women with a history of sexual abuse feel a loss of power and self-worth that raises their chance of future victimization. It has also been suggested that mothers who have survived CSA are more likely to experience parenting stress and to maltreat their children than those with no CSA history. But according to a recent study led by Andrea L. Pazdera of the School of Behavioral Health Sciences at Florida State University, that is not always the case.
Pazdera assessed 265 women during their third trimester of pregnancy and interviewed them about their past history of CSA. She then re-interviewed them when their children were between the ages of two and four to determine their levels of maltreatment behavior, parenting stress, and depression. What she found can provide hope to many women who have survived CSA. First, Pazdera discovered that although there were connections among CSA, maltreatment, and stress, they were indirect. More specifically, the mothers who survived CSA did not all have higher levels of maltreatment behaviors or parental stress. But a large number of them did have depression.
Upon further examination, Pazdera found that it was the depression that indirectly led to more parenting stress and higher levels of child maltreatment. Additionally, many of the mothers with CSA and depression doubted their parenting abilities, which indirectly led to both stress and maltreatment. This suggests that not all mothers who have survived CSA will go on to maltreat their children or experience parenting stress. Pazdera believes that by uncovering these pathways to negative outcomes, treatments can be focused on addressing those in order to improve the behaviors and beliefs of mothers with a history of CSA. “Intervention centered on changing belief systems may be the catalyst for preventing the transmission of abuse from one generation to the next,” said Pazdera.
Andrea, L. Pazdera, et al. Child sexual abuse and the superfluous association with negative parenting outcomes: The role of symptoms as predictors. Journal of marital and family therapy 39.1 (2013): 98-111. ProQuest Family Health; ProQuest Research Library. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.
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