• A qualitative study of parenting by incest survivors

      O'Brien, Daryl Wardzinski; Belcher, John R. (1998)
      The devastating issue of childhood sexual abuse has been well documented in the literature. The vast majority of the research, however, has focused on an individualistic view of the victim, perpetrator, and non-offending spouse. The rationale for this study was based on the failure of the existing literature to address the relationships between members of the incestuous family system. In particular, the research is limited in its investigation of the role of the incest survivor as a parent. The purpose of this study was to systematically discover, describe, and analyze the beliefs, practices, and values of nine female incest survivors related to parenting. A qualitative methodology combined with symbolic interaction theory was used to describe the meaning of parenting in the lives of nine female incest survivors. Three rounds of semi-structured interviews were conducted. Interactions between the mother and child, the life experience of the mother that impacted on this relationship, and the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that developed were systematically explored. Three major themes were discovered that identified and explained the parenting role of the mother/survivor. These themes support the final hypothesis: The meaning attached to the abuse in the family of origin influences the parenting in the family of procreation. Incest survivors recognize what they do not want their parenting to be, however, because they have no model for healthy functioning there is difficulty implementing this desire in actual parenting situations. In an attempt to be a better parent, a deficit model is utilized which is more self-focused than child-focused. This study provided preliminary information that can be useful in understanding the transmission of child maltreatment across generations. These mothers indicated a desire to be better parents than their own parents were, however, it was in the application of parenting behaviors that difficulties continue. It was also evident that the sexual abuse was only part of their experience and that the unavailability of their own parents was most influential in showing them how to parent.