• Intrafamilial child sexual abuse: Characteristics that predict maternal belief and protective action among non-offending mothers

      Pintello, Denise Anne; Zuravin, Susan J., 1944- (2000)
      The primary purpose of this study was to examine characteristics that predict maternal belief and protective action among non-offending mothers of sexually abused children. Secondary objectives included identifying the proportion of mothers who believed, protected and performed various combinations of both maternal responses, and examination of the impact of belief and protection on child sexual abuse recurrence. Data were collected from 435 biological, non-offending mothers through case record abstraction and computerized database review. Descriptive statistics measured proportions of maternal belief and/or protection. Logistic regression identified predictors of belief, protection, the four combinations of maternal responses and sexual abuse recurrence. Results indicated that approximately half of the mothers believed and/or protected. Four distinct combinations of maternal responses were documented, suggesting that mothers are a heterogeneous group concerning postdisclosure belief and protection. Findings supported prior research indicating that mothers who were not current sexual partners of offenders were more likely to believe and protect. The absence of maternal substance abuse was also found to predict maternal protection. Study results failed to support prior studies reporting victim age, gender, prior physical abuse history, sexual abuse severity and offender substance abuse as significant predictors of belief and/or protection. This study extended new knowledge by identifying 18 new predictors. Mothers were more likely to protect when they postponed their first birth until adulthood and their children did not exhibit sexualized behaviors. Mothers with no prior knowledge about the abuse before disclosure were more likely to believe and protect. Mothers who were unemployed, and had a prior trauma history of domestic violence and/or childhood sexual abuse were more likely to believe, yet not take protective action. Finally, this study contributed to new knowledge by identifying maternal non-protection as a predictor of sexual abuse recurrence. Further study is recommended to investigate the longitudinal impact of maternal, child and situational predictors on belief protection and their association to sexual abuse recurrence. It is hoped that the empirical data generated from this study will enhance child welfare interventions by fortifying maternal belief and protection, which may ultimately reduce out-of-home placements, maltreatment recurrence, and the psychological trauma endured by sexually abused children.