Mothers Who Survived Childhood Sexual Abuse Tend Toward Depression

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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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • andrea


    March 6th, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    good to see that it can be controlled. because I think all those who did avoid the depression and other effects just handled it better and had coping methods at their disposal. this should definitely be a hope for all those who thought their past will definitely impact their future negatively.

  • Solomon


    March 7th, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    My own wife was the victim of childhood abuse and she told me pretty early on that she would not be willing to bring children into her life because she was too afraid of what she would turn into if there were ever kids there to stoke that fire. She is too scared of being what I know she has the possbility to be (a great mom0 because she never had a great role model in that area herself.

  • Irene


    March 7th, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Something hit me as I read this article. We refer to people who endured sexual/physical/mental abuse as “survivors.” Why is that? What is the definition of survivor we are using? I know that wasn’t the gist of the article, but it’s just something I’ve never thought of before. I’m not criticizing the use of the word or saying it should be anything different. I was just wondering if anyone else had thought of this…

  • mandy G

    mandy G

    March 7th, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    This makes sense b/c when i am depressed i am so irritable and have no patience what so ever with my three kids they drive me crazy and i am not a good parent at all and i feel real bad for them.

  • Brian


    March 7th, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    My mom’s grandfather abused her and I have to say that I could not have asked for a better mom. She was very focused on not letting her past come back to haunt her or her five kids. She chose to have each one of us and was determined that we would get the best of her every day. As a parent now, I cannot imagine how exhausting that must have been and how she had to might with so many demons inside her every day. But, she did it, and because of her, now I am a great dad. I am so thankful for my mom for caring enough about us to work through her own issues of CSA.

  • jennifer b

    jennifer b

    March 7th, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    people who are mean to kids like that shouldn’t be allowed. to have them.
    DSS wont do nothing to help most abused kids like we saw with my uncles boy.
    he was as mean as a snake to him and we saw him hit him all the time and wouldn’t nobody do nothing.
    even the teacher called DSS. still nothing.

  • Kelby


    March 7th, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Parenting effectively is hard enough as is. I can’t imagine having to do it with that much emotional baggage.

  • Brad


    March 7th, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    You’d think it makes a big difference. But I guess the power of determination and the willingness to move beyond an unfavorable condition is what keeps us all going. Our natural curing method. It is what protects us from perennial sadness.

  • Andy


    March 8th, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    If you had to experience humans at their worst as a child, is it any huge surprise that as some point in your life, especially if you have not been in therapy, that you will probably become depressed?

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