• The parenting of women sexually abused as children: Abuse characteristics, cognitive responses, attachment styles and parenting adequacy

      McMillen, John Curtis; Zuravin, Susan J., 1944- (1993)
      Recently, researchers began exploring the parenting behaviors of women who were sexually abused as children. These studies suggest this group may be prone to parenting problems. Reviews recently admonished researchers to begin studying intervening factors in the development of long term consequences from sexual abuse (Cahill, Llewelyn & Pearson, 1991; Kendall-Tackett, Meyer Williams & Finklehor, 1993). Following the suggestions of these reviewers, three domains of intervening factors were examined in their relationship to parenting adequacy--characteristics of the sexual abuse, cognitive responses to the sexual abuse and adult attachment styles. Previous research identified 220 low income mothers in Baltimore who were sexually abused as children. These mothers came from two cohorts--women known to have a maltreated child, and AFDC mothers not known to have a maltreated child in 1989. One hundred sixty two (73.5%) were re-interviewed for this study. Eight interviews were unusable, leaving 154 subjects for data analyses. Parenting adequacy was operationalized in three ways, including an archival measure of Child Protective Service (CPS) Status, and two self report measures from the Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979)--severe physical aggression and verbal aggression. Five indicators of abuse characteristics were examined--the use of force, coitus, frequency, age at first abuse, relationship to perpetrator and perceived support. Several measures of cognitive responses to sexual abuse were created for this dissertation. They included attributions of blame and perceptions of harm and benefit. Adult attachment styles/internal models were assessed using the Relationship Questionnaire (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) and standard measures of self esteem (Rosenberg, 1965) and views of the world (Janoff-Bulman, 1989). Few of these independent variables were related to parenting adequacy. No single independent variable was related to all three indicators of parenting adequacy. Those with more perceived support, and those who perceived a little benefit from the sexual abuse, were less likely to have a maltreated child. Contributions of this study include measurement development for assessing attributions of blame for child sexual abuse. The attribution scale appears to be composed of three factors--self-blame, family blame and perpetrator blame. Each factor appears to have adequate reliability and construct validity. In addition, the study provides new insight into the cognitive responses women make about sexual abuse.