• 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.
    • The relationship of child sexual abuse to the birthweight of infants born to low-income women

      Hyle, Linda Williams.; Greif, Geoffrey L. (1993)
      The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the relationship between a maternal history of child sexual abuse (CSA) and poor pregnancy outcome defined as low birthweight or prematurity among low income women. Pregnant women (n = 241) between 23 and 29 weeks gestation were interviewed during obstetric clinics in the UMMS using the Russell (1986) unwanted sexual experience survey and Lederman's (1984) Prenatal Self-Evaluation Questionnaire. The mean birthweight for the infants of all women was 3026.57 grams with 42 women (17.4%) delivering LBW infants (2500 grams or less) and 41 women (17%) delivering preterm ({dollar}>{dollar}37 weeks). Unwanted sexual experiences were reported by 97 women (40.2%) of which 68 women (28.2%) met Russell's criteria for child sexual abuse. Sixteen women (16.5%) who reported unwanted sexual experiences delivered LBW infants. Both Russell's broad and narrow definitions of child sexual abuse were correlated with poor prenatal psychosocial adaptation, drug use and different types of child maltreatment (lack of attachment, lack of continuity of care, physical abuse and neglect). The broad definition of child sexual abuse was a small but significant positive determinant in the birthweight model which controlled for race, maternal age, parity and medical factors. Characteristics of the CSA such as the intrusiveness of the abuse, the current presence of the offender in the woman's environment and multiple victimizations were significant negative determinants in the gestational age model. An unwanted sexual incident under the age of 14 and support from others were positive predictors in the birthweight model. The relationship between the broad or narrow definition of CSA and birthweight was proposed to be mediated through different health practices (smoking, alcohol and drug use, level of prenatal care, and maternal weight gain) and psychosocial adaptation. The data did not support a mediating relationship. The findings suggest that there is a relationship between CSA and the two dependent variables birthweight and gestational age which is complicated by the different characteristics of CSA producing both positive and negative predictors.