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Support systems for families following the disclosure of child sexual abuse

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Title:
Support systems for families following the disclosure of child sexual abuse
Creator:
Haley, Mary Michael
Publication Date:
Language:
English
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vii, 70 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Social networks -- North Carolina ( lcsh )
Family counseling -- North Carolina ( lcsh )
Sexually abused children -- Social networks -- North Carolina ( lcsh )
Sexually abused children -- Family relationships -- North Carolina ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 66-70).
General Note:
Department of Sociology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mary Michael Haley.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
40283096 ( OCLC )
ocm40283096
Classification:
LD1190.L66 1998m .H35 ( lcc )

Full Text
SUPPORT SYSTEMS FOR FAMILIES
FOLLOWING THE DISCLOSURE OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
MaryMichael Haley
B.A., Western State College, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Masters of Arts
Sociology
by
1998


1998 by MaryMichael Haley
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Masters of Arts
degree by
MaiyMichael Haley
has been approved
by
Date


Haley, MaryMichael (M.A. Sociology)
Support Systems For Families Following The Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse
Thesis directed by Professor Candan Duran-Aydintug
Abstract
Concerned about the family dynamics that occur following the disclosure of
child sexual abuse, the proposed study will examine how families function after they
discover the abuse and what support systems are available to help parents and victims
cope with the abuse. Using data collected previously, (Impact of Court Processes on
Sexually Abused Children In North Carolina, 1983-1986) the impact of child sexual
abuse on both the parents and the victims will be examined. Comparisons are made
between the support systems available to mothers versus those available to fathers
and to understand how these systems benefit the family as a whole. The various
factors that determine when a mother is and is not supportive of her child after the
disclosure of sexual abuse are also examined. Results indicate that Sexual abuse was
established in 56% of the cases in this sample and 28% of the cases showed a strong
indication of sexual abuse. The family denied the sexual abuse occurred in 36% of
the cases, 54% were not checked, and 10% were missing. At the initial interview, 11
of the offenders were nonresidential parents, 15 of them were the mothers live-in
IV


boyfriend, 48 of the offenders were a residential parent and both parents lived in the
household. Fifteen of the offenders were residential parents and in those households
the nonoffending parents were not present. Eleven of the children, on the other hand,
were abused by other male relatives such as brothers, uncles, and grandfathers.
When offenders were categorized as ex-spouse, biological father, stepfather,
and current boyfriend, it was found that mothers scores for supporting their children
emotionally were highest when the offender was an ex-spouse and lowest when he
was a current boyfriend (as a matter of fact they supported their children more when
he was a biological father who she was married to than when he was a current
boyfriend) (F=5.98, p<0.01). To determine if there were differences between
external support services that mothers and fathers received, several difference of
proportion tests were run. The tests indicated that the mothers did not receive more
external social support than the fathers. Suggestions for further research in the area
of child sexual abuse were also included in this study.
This Abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
Candan Duran-Aydintug
V


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
My thanks to my advisor Candan Duran-Aydintug for all of her support and patience
in motivating me and above all I am grateful for her friendship over the past two
years. I would also like to thank Leigh Ingram and Dick Anderson for their help in
the final stages of this thesis.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION...................................1
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Family Structure and Dynamics................9
Social Support..............................18
Purpose of the Study........................32
3. METHOD
Sample......................................33
Sample Characteristics......................33
Procedure and Instruments...................35
4. RESULTS
Descriptive Statistics.........................37
Initial Interview.......................37
Five Month Follow Up....................42
Inferintial Statistics..................48
5. DISCUSSION........................................59
BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................66
Vll


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
For many people in American society child sexual abuse has been viewed as
an incident that rarely occurs and when it does occur, the perpetrator is thought to be
a stranger who is psychologically deranged and a social outcast of society.
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is not a rare incident and the perpetrator is usually
not a stranger but tends to be someone very close to the child victim. Sexual abuse
offenders may be grandparents, siblings, mothers, clergy, or teachers. However, it
has been estimated that between 80% and 97% of the time the perpetrator is a father
or a father figure of the victim (Bass and Thorton 1983; Bass and Davis 1988;
Eastwood and Patton, 1995). Finkelhor (1988) has estimated that 4.5% of adult
females have experienced an incestuous relationship with their fathers by the age of
18. Due to these findings, much of the research found on child sexual abuse focuses
on the structure and dynamics of the family.
For feminist researchers, the traditional patriarchal structure of the family is
one of the main aspects of the family that may contribute to the suppression and
abuse of women and children within the home. Herman (1981) suggests that a
patriarchal family structure secures to fathers immense powers over their wives and
children. These powers include extensive sexual rights to both their wives and
1


children. Herman (1981) also argues that in the patriarchal structure there is a major
emphasis on traditional values and sexual division of labor. Finkelhor (1980) found
that when a father has particularly conservative family values and believes strongly in
childrens obedience and in the subordination of women, a daughter may be more at
risk of being sexually abused. The presence of any of these dynamics within the
patriarchal family structure can make confrontation with the perpetrator difficult for
the mother if she attempts to help her child.
Common characteristics that researchers cite as typically found in abusive
families include the presence of a stepfather, lack of education by the mother, and
family poverty (Finkelhor, Araji, Baron, Browne, Doyle Peters, and Wyatt, 1986).
Other characteristics that researchers believe may put a child at risk for sexual abuse
include the presence of physical abuse, the extensive use of drug and alcohol, as well
as the presence of major aggression, anger, and conflict among family members
(Dietz and Craft, 1980; Sirles and Franke,1989; Koverola, Proulx, Battle and Hanna,
1996). When child sexual abuse occurs within a family any one of these additional
issues may exist. Child sexual abuse is frequently found in families with multiple
problems.
Social support can be a vital component in helping a mother protect her
children when she is living in a traditional patriarchal structure where sexual abuse
2


occurs Social support can provide the resources a suppressed and abused mother
needs to remove herself and her children from an abusive situation (Johnson, 1992).
Many social support theorists, view social support as the fulfillment by others
of basic on going requirements for ones well-being. While other theorists argue that
social support constitutes meeting more specific needs, such as, helping people
through times of stress or hardship caused by major life changes or adverse events
(Cutrona, 1996; Lin, Ensel, Simeone, and Kuo, 1979; Sarason and Sarason, 1982).
It has been suggested, that social support is one of the most important
resources a child who has been sexually abused needs in his/her life. Everson,
Hunter, Runyon, Edelsohn, and Coulter, (1989) argue that the child who has been
sexually traumatized is in desperate need of a supportive and of a protective adult in
his or her life. The mother and family of the incest victim can play a crucial role in
the healing process of the victim.
In this research project, I will be looking at several social support variables
and the effects they have on the family after the disclosure of sexual abuse. I will
compare the differences among the social support that is available to mothers versus
the support available to fathers. I will also compare the relationships between social
support and those families that reported the presence of sexual abuse and those
families that did not. In addition, I will explore the relationship between the social
3


support received by families who denied the occurrence of the abuse and those
families that did not deny it.
The data for my research come from the (ICPSR) Inter-University Consortium
for Political and Social Research. The data was originally collected in North Carolina
by Desmond K. Runyan and colleagues. The questions posed in the interviews, offer
much of the information I need to establish the types of social support available to the
families and the effects that support has on the victims and their families.
4


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Child sexual abuse is an inclusive term that is used throughout the literature to
describe both incest and sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is defined as the bodily
contact of a sexual nature occurring prior to age 18 by a perpetrator of any age or
relationship to the subject, (Wyatt, 1987). Child sexual abuse may also be defined as
any contact or non-contact sexual behavior imposed upon a child, whereas incest is
sexual abuse by a family member or individual trusted by the child and or the family.
Child abuse often involves isolated incidents, while incest tends to take place over a
longer period of time. Both can result in emotional, physical, or sexual trauma for
the child,(web site). In this study, each of these definitions are considered in
investigating how the victims of sexual abuse and their families are impacted when a
child is sexually traumatized and the support services that are available to them.
Varying definitions are used throughout the literature to describe incest and
sexual abuse. Hunter (1990) defines sexual abuse as any sexual act that an adult
does to a child and any touch or other behavior between the child and adult that must
be kept secret (p. 34). Hunters definition is very broad, more so than most
definitions in the literature. However, he considers this sort of broad definition
5


essential in investigating sexual abuse because he believes that many adults who
abuse children use daily routines that are viewed as normal by the child to sexually
abuse the child. Such routines may include even bathing and dressing the child. For
example, a mother who is sexually abusing her son may use bathing the child as an
opportunity to disguise the abuse as a normal activity, however, as Hunter points out
when the childs penis is being washed excessively during bath time and the baths are
given several times a day the boundaries between caregiving and abuse are crossed
(1990).
Johnson (1992) uses the term incest in her work when she discusses sexual
abuse as she believes that people feel differently about sexual abuse when it is
committed by a family member rather than a stranger or a non-relative. Johnson
suggests that the term incest carries with it a more emotional tone that impacts and
captures peoples attention when they hear it or read about it. Johnson (1992) utilizes
Emile Durkhiems (1897) theory about incest from his writings in Incest the Nature
and Origin of the Taboo in which he stated that incest holds and evokes a powerful
sense of dread and horror because it violates the deeply held taboo of the blood tie,
meaning that it is unnatural and illegitimate for relatives of the same biological
family to be involved in sexual relations (Durkhiem, 1897, cited in Johnson, 1992).
Finkelhor (1984), however, believes that the term incest with its
6


anthropological background is too broad and confuses the issue. Hence, Finkelhor
coined the term interfamilial or familial sexual abuse to describe child sexual abuse.
Furthermore, this is a term that several authors in this field have adopted and prefer to
use within their own definitions of child sexual abuse (Johnson, 1992).
Throughout the literature, authors cite several different ages as they go about
defining child sexual abuse. Russell(1983) originally used anyone under the age 13
in her San Francisco study because the California law defined sexual molestation in
1978 as all sex acts upon children under the age of fourteen, when the intent of
sexually stimulating either party is involved (cited in Russell, 1983, p. 136).
Finkelhor (1979) defines a child as anyone under the age of 17, on the other hand,
the National Child Abuse and Neglect publications use 18 years as their criterion
(1981). In most states, 18 is the legal age of consent and this is also the age cited in
the Child Abuse and Neglect reporting statute. However, Russell disagrees with
using the age 18 suggesting that many 16 and 17 year olds can not be defined as
children due to their emotional and physical maturity (Russell, 1983).
The occurrence of child sexual abuse has become more prevalent within the
United States in the last decade. Through the media and numerous published research
articles, the public has become more informed about acts of sexual abuse that have
occurred in the society at large. Many people assume that because American society
7


has established governmental laws and cultural taboos prohibiting it, child sexual
abuse is a rare incident. Contrary to this belief, it is estimated that one out of three
girls and one out of seven boys are sexually abused by the time they reach the age of
eighteen (Bass & Davis,1989; Finkelhor,1988). Furthermore, it has been estimated
that 4.5% of adult females have experienced an incestuous relationship with their
fathers by the age of 18 (Johnson, 1992).
When a case of child molestation is brought to public attention, the
perpetrator is frequently portrayed as a psychopath or an outc(imi][im2]ast of society.
The reality, however, is that most acts of sexual abuse against children are done by
those people closest to the child, people who are supposedly in a role of nurturing and
protecting the child. Sexual abuse offenders often times can be grandparents,
siblings, mothers, clergy, and teachers. However, between 80% and 97% of the time,
the offender is a father, a father figure, or a friend of the family (Bass & Thorton
1983; Bass & Davis 1988; Eastwood & Patton, 1995). David Finkelhor (1981) has
estimated that almost one-third of all child sexual abuse is committed by a family
member (cited in Johnson, 1992).
8


Family Structure and Dynamics
Due to the growing evidence that many children are abused by people they
know including family members, much of the literature on child sexual abuse focuses
on the structure of the family and the dynamics within the family that contribute to
the abuse of the child. Feminist theory has contributed a great deal to the research on
child sexual abuse. Feminists were the first to address the issue of male supremacy
over females in the family structure. Herman (1981) suggests that a patriarchal
family structure secures to fathers immense powers over their wives and children.
These powers include extensive sexual rights to both their wives and children.
Herman further argues that in this structure there is a major emphasis on traditional
values and a sexual division of labor. The father in the patriarchal household often
times is the main source of income for the household. The mother and child may find
themselves completely dependent upon him for financial support. Finkelhor (1980)
also found that when a father has particularly conservative family values, such as
believing strongly in childrens obedience and in subordination of women, a daughter
is more at risk. Furthermore, the mother in the patriarchal family may find herself
suppressed by her male partner or she may also be the target of his physical and
sexual abuse. All of these factors contribute to making confrontation with the male
abuser difficult for the mother and may interfere with her ability to protect the child
9


victim when accusations of sexual abuse are made. The mother in the incestuous
family structure may also find the fact that her partner is abusing her children to be
too overwhelming and deny that the abuse is occurring within her own home,
especially if she was in the home at the time when the abuse took place.
Sirles and Frank (1989) found in their study on mothers reactions to sexual
abuse that mothers were more likely to believe their childrens report of abuse if the
perpetrator was an extended family member, such as a grandfather, an uncle, or a
cousin. As a matter of fact, these authors state that mothers believed their children in
92.3% of the cases where the offender was an extended family member. The
percentage of mothers who believed in their children was lower for biological fathers
85.9% and the rate dropped even further to 55.6% if the perpetrator was a stepfather
or live-in partner.
Everson, Hunter, Runyon, Edelsohn, and Coulter, (1989) reported similar
findings from their research. The authors suggest that mothers are more supportive
toward their children after the disclosure of sexual abuse if they are less dependent
upon the perpetrator. Therefore, if the perpetrator is an ex-spouse and the mother is
less dependent on him for emotional and financial support, she has an easier time
believing her childs report of abuse. Moreover, if she is currently involved with the
perpetrator, then she may be more dependent upon him to meet her needs financially
10


and emotionally and is or will be less likely to support her child. Everson et.al.,
(1989) also claim that there is lower support by mothers who have a boyfriend
because the boyfriend is less likely to admit the abuse. In their study, over one-third
of the biological fathers admitted their guilt, while all of the boyfriends denied any
involvement with the child.
Finkelhor, Araji, Baron, Browne, Doyle Peters, and Wyatt, (1986) believe that
there are certain characteristics within families that may put a child at risk for sexual
abuse, such as the presence of a stepfather, lack of education by the mother, and
familys poverty. Other dynamics cited in the literature include the presence of
physical abuse, the extensive use of drugs and alcohol, as well as the presence of
major aggression, anger and conflict among family members (Dietz & Craft, 1980;
Sides & Franke,1989; Koverola, Proulx, Battle & Hanna, 1996). When child sexual
abuse occurs within a family any one of these additional issues may exist. Child
sexual abuse is frequently found in families with multiple problems. The
combination of two or more of these issues in a particular family may cause difficulty
for the child in trying to report sexual abuse. That is, when a child is physically
abused by the perpetrator, as well as sexually abused, mothers may have a harder
time believing in their childs reports. Sides and Franke (1989) suggest that the
mothers inability to believe in her child occurs because she believes that the child is
11


making up the abuse in order to get back at the perpetrator for the physical abuse. In
their study on intrafamilial sexual abuse, Sirles and Frank(1989) found that child
physical abuse was present in 30.5% of the cases, alcohol abuse in 47.9% of the
cases, and physical abuse of the mother in 44.3% of the cases.
Victims tend have a negative perception of their families and cite the
characteristics stated above in their own families. They view the family as low in
commitment, in helpfulness, and in support that family members provide for one
another. Families where child sexual abuse is present are perceived as being highly
controlling of their members. In addition, there is a higher degree of openly
expressed anger, aggression, and conflict among family members (Koverola, Proulex,
Battle, and Hanna, 1996). Koverola and colleagues (1996) further state that it is
possible that families are characterized as low on cohesion and high on conflict may
predispose daughters to being sexually abused (p.276). A major reason that the
authors believe this to be true is the lack of a supportive adult in the childs life who
can either protect the child before the abuse occurs or make themselves available to
the child for disclosure afterwards.
Abuse within the extended family has become more of a concern for some
researchers in this field, however, there is very little information about these family
dynamics. For the purpose of this study the extended family will refer to family
12


members who are from a second marriage (stepfathers and stepsiblings) or
individuals who are cohabiting with the victims immediate family, such as the
mothers intimate partner, fathers intimate partner, or roommates. Extrafamilial
child sexual abuse has been defined as one or more unwanted sexual experiences
with persons unrelated by blood, ranging from petting (touching of breasts or genitals
or attempts at such touching) to rape, before the victim turned 14 years, and
completed or attempted forcible rape experiences from the ages of 14 to 17 years
(Russell, 1983).
Alexander and Lupfer (1987) found that extended families, that have had
sexual abuse occurring within the family unit, have similar characteristics found in
nuclear families in which this type of abuse takes place. These characteristics
include lack of cohesiveness and adaptability as well as serious emotional distance
among family members. The researchers further indicate that only sexual abuse by
nuclear family members was associated with the traditional patriarchal family
structure described by Herman(1981). Although Russell (1983) found that 40% of
the extrafamilial perpetrators in her study were also classified as authority figures in
relation to the victims. Finkelhor (1979) believes that a higher rate of sexual abuse
may be associated with the presence of a stepfather within the home. The chances of
a stepdaughter being abused are seven times higher than a natal daughter and many
13


times the stepdaughters may be subjected to more serious sexual abuse than natal
daughters (Russell, 1986). However, there are conflicting findings in this area.
Phalan (1986) found that stepdaughters were not subject to more abuse than natal
daughters. There is also conflicting findings within the literature about the age of
onset of abuse by stepfathers on their daughters. Phalen (1986) found that the abuse
began in preadolescents, while Russell (1986) found no difference between when
stepdaughters were abused compared to natal daughters in regard to age.
Children who are sexually abused often times suffer from severe
psychological problems (Finkelhor,1987). There are long and short term effects that
victims have been subjected to. Many of the effects that arise due to sexual abuse
depend on the type of abuse and the duration of the abuse. Short term effects include
anxiety, depression, and problems in sexual relations. Long term effects of sexual
abuse on the child victim can be more severe such as, suicidal behavior, depression,
anxiety, fear, negative self-image, isolation, sexual problems, multiple personality
disorders, eating disorders, and post traumatic stress syndrome (King, Hunter, and
Runyan, 1988; Finkelhor, 1987; Kinzl and Biebl, 1992). Particularly at risk for
psychological problems are children who have been victimized by their fathers or
father figures. This may be due to issues of betrayal and concern about family well-
being compounded by the trauma of sexual victimization (Herman, Russell and
14


Trocki, 1986).
According to Summit (1983), the most damaging aspects of child
victimization include disbelief and rejection from adult caretakers which leads to
helplessness, hopelessness, isolation, and self blame of the victim. Many victims of
child sexual abuse have more resentments towards those who did not believe them
than towards the perpetrator who subjected them to the abuse. This anger may be
directed at the victims mother and family members, the courts, or social services.
The majority of children do not report acts of sexual abuse that they have been
Subjected to. Despite expectations that a victim would report or seek help when
abuse occurs, the majority of victims surveyed throughout the literature never
disclosed the abuse during their childhood. Many refused to tell an adult out of fear
that they would be blamed for the incident, that the report would be disregarded, and
that they would be further victimized by the perpetrator (Finkelhor, 1980;
Russell, 1983; Herman, 1981).
Mothers have often been the target of many researchers in the field of sexual
abuse. Mothers have been viewed as co-abusers due to their supposed lack of
intervention to stop further abuse of the their child. Some authors go as far as to put
the whole blame on the mother saying that the sexual abuse is her fault due to role
reversal between her and her daughter, placing the daughter in the position of the
15


wife and the mother in the place of the daughter. Some theorists refer to this role
reversal as the typical act of a collusive mother. Johnson (1992) claims the definition
of the collusive mother originated from judgmental clinical statements made by male
medical doctors. This definition originally came out of the work of Maurice Barry
and Adelaide Johnson (1976) who used it to describe the mother who condoned the
incest or refused to acknowledge its occurrence in the house. Johnson (1992) points
out that
within incest literature the collusive mother has been portrayed as a frigid,
withdrawn, physically ill, or psychologically impaired woman who resigns
from her expected roles of responsible mother and pushes her daughter into
taking on her duties within the family, including satisfying the emotional and
sexual needs of the father (p.2).
A large body of literature has emerged, attempting to understand the roles that
mothers play and the actions that they take after the disclosure of sexual abuse of
their child. Two other categories that Johnson (1992) describes are the powerless
mother and the protective mother. The powerless mother is the one who finds herself
suppressed and overwhelmed in the male dominated home. Johnson suggests that the
powerless mother is often times combined with the collusive mother and completely
overlooked. That is, these women are seen as the victimizers who throw their
daughters into the beds of their husbands rather than the victims themselves whose
husbands dominate, abuse, and suppress them. Herman (1981) states that the mother
16


in an incestuous family is oppressed, more so than the average wife and mother living
in a patriarchal home. She is totally dependent and subservient and she will
compromise everything in order to maintain the marriage even when the well being
of her child is in question. Herman believes that maternal collusion in incest is a
measure of maternal powerlessness (1981).
On the other hand, the definition of the protective mother has been unclear.
Johnson (1992) states that there has been no one precise understanding of the
protective mother. Is the mother protective of the child from the act of incest or does
the mother protect the child after the disclosure of the incest? A mother may take
several actions to help her child but whether these actions are protective or not is not
always agreed upon. There are several variables that may help some mothers protect
their child after the disclosure of the incest. A mother may be ready to leave her
husband and the sexual abuse could be a final stimulus to do so. The mother may
have alternative resources and support outside the marriage to help her to sustain any
protective action she may initiate, and the mothers empathy toward her child and her
anger toward her husband may be stronger than her need to remain in the relationship
with him ( Johnson 1992).
Feminist researchers were the first to take a closer look at the role of the
mother within the incestuous family. Johnson (1992) suggests that, feminists began
17


to see incest more as an issue of power than sex, they rejected the collusive mother
paradigm to promote a feminist analysis of the existence and impact of patriarchy on
the behavior of mothers (p.4). In addition, Herman(1981) feels that the feminist
perspective offers the best explanation on the existing data for sexual abuse. Herman
believes that without an understanding of male supremacy and female oppression it is
impossible to explain why the majority of perpetrators are male and the victims are
female (1981).
Social Support
Social support can be one of the most essential aspects of an individuals life
when it comes to coping with everyday life stresses and/or major life changes. There
are various types of social support. Some people offer emotional and mental
support, while others may give monetary support. According to Cutrona, (1996) all
definitions of social support are based on the assumption that people must rely on one
another to meet certain basic needs (p.3). These needs include interpersonal needs
such as, love, affection, ability to express ones needs and feelings, support in dealing
with emotions that may be over overwhelming for an individual, and reassurance
about ones identity and worth. Other types of support include information support
which consists of advice, reassurance about decisions an individual makes, and
18


positive feedback about a persons situation. Tangible assistance is also included in
social support which involves offering help with certain tasks or physical resources,
such as, loaning money, helping someone find a job, or a place to live (Cutrona,
1996).
There is a basic understanding by theorists about the general idea of social
support, although there are varying definitions throughout the literature of what social
support is. Different theorists have different ideas about what constitutes social
support. For some theorists, social support is the fulfillment by others of basic
ongoing requirements for ones well-being (Cutrona, 1996). While other theorists
suggest that social support is meeting needs that are more specific, such as, helping
people through times of stress or hardship caused by major life changes or adverse
events (Cutrona, 1996; Lin, Ensel, Simeone, and Kuo, 1979; Sarason and Sarason,
1982). There are other sources of support other than those received from close
friendships or from a persons immediate family. Lin, Ensel, Simeone, and Kuo
(1979) believe that the definition of social support includes, support that is
accessible to an individual through social ties to other individuals, to groups, and to
the larger community (p. 109).
Numerous research articles on social support indicate that the presence of
social support in the lives of most individuals may have the ability to reduce the
19


effects that stressful life events tend to cause. The majority of the literature focuses
on the impact that social support has on peoples mental health, physical health, and
well being (Eaton, 1978; Lin, et.al., 1979; Hirsch, 1980; Sarason and Sarason,l982,
Cutrona,1996). Sarason, and Sarason (1982) suggest that an individuals social
support is imbedded within his/her relationships with other people. When the
relationships are extensive, the individual needs and respects others and is more
likely to help him/her, as well as to feel that help is available when he/she needs it
most.
However, if the relationships are limited, the individual may lose the sense of
obligation toward others. According to Sarason and Sarason (1982) this concept of
social support may be related not just to what one gets from others, but also to a
persons inclination to respond to the needs of others, to help them, and to exhibit
tolerance of their behavior (p.332). In other words, people tend to hold the
perception whatever I get from others, I will give to others. These authors suggest,
that people who have strong social support networks they can depend on will also
have more compassionate and helpful attitudes toward other people, especially
toward their behavioral deviance.
Sources of social support can be both formal and informal. The most
common source of social support is informal support or natural support which most
20


often comes from people within the immediate social circle of an individual, such as,
family and friends. Formal support on the other hand, usually comes from agencies
and individuals outside of a persons immediate social environment such as, social
services, mental health professionals, physicians, and clergy (Hirsch,1980).
Social support can offer a great deal of relief and reassurance to individuals
who are having major life changes, who suffer from serious life stresses, or who
suffer from serious mental illness. Lin et. al., (1979) suggest that social support is
negatively related to illness. That is, the greater social support an individual receives
from his/her immediate social circle, the less likely he/she will suffer from illness.
The authors speculate the reason for this negative relationship is that social support
may have the ability to reduce the likelihood of the onset of illness, in defusing the
occurrence of negative events in an individuals life (Lin et. al., 1979). In addition,
these authors also state, social support has the ability to help with the stress of major
life changes by providing information needed to reduce or eliminate psychological or
physical consequences of life changes (Lin et. al.,1979, p. 109).
Sarason and Sarason (1982) found in their study on the relation between
social support and attitudes toward mental illness that there are significant
correlations between social support, how mental illness is perceived, and what people
think should be done about the mentally ill. These researchers showed that
21


respondents who had more positive and accepting attitudes toward mental illness
reported having more people they could depend on if they were in a crises situations.
The respondents who were more optimistic about mental illness also reported
satisfaction with their levels of social support (Sarason and Sarason, 1982).
Moreover, it was found that respondents who reported negative attitudes toward
mental illness also reported having fewer resources for social support. Additionally,
respondents who felt negatively about mental illness stated they had a strong desire to
control deviancy in an authoritarian manner (Sarason and Sarason, 1982).
The act of social support does not always have to take place, but rather the
idea that an individual will receive social support and that support is available from
those he/she trusts can help with ones well-being in life (Wethington and
Kessler, 1986). Social support has been conceptualized by professionals in behavioral
medicine in cognitive terms. That is, social support is a perception that one is loved
and esteemed by others (perceived support). Perceived support has been the topic of
a wide variety of research articles and has been demonstrated to buffer the effects of
stress on psychological outcomes. Wethington and Kessler (1986) found in their
study that, the perceptions of support availability are more important than actual
support transactions but that perceived support promotes psychological adjustment
22


through received support, as much as by practical resolution of situational demands
(p-85).
Received support, on the other hand, is made of structural features that an
individual is or can be aware of. Such features include, a friend lending money,
offering someone a job giving them a place to live, giving emotional support, or
offering advice. Unlike perceived support there is not a great deal of research
available about the effect that social relationships in themselves have on buffering
life stresses (Wethington and Kessler, 1986).
According to Jung (1987), emotional support is one of the most common
types of social support. Emotional support may add to or be a major factor in
determining the effectiveness of social support. In addition, emotional support may
contribute to the acceptance of other types of support. That is, a person is more likely
to accept material or financial support from an understanding provider than a hostile
provider. Due to the various benefits that emotional support can give an individual,
Jung (1987) credits emotional social support as the core ingredient of social support
in general.
Emotional support can consist of assurance, concern for ones well-being,
affirmation, and sympathy. There are also non-verbal types of support such as
listening. However, the majority of emotional support involves some type of verbal
23


communication between the support provider and the recipient (Jung, 1987).
Hirsch (1980) found that among his respondents helpful support enhanced adaptation
to stress. Among the most helpful attributes was cognitive guidance, which included
verbal communication such as advice, explanations, and information.
Many people receive the majority of their support from those people closest to
them especially from their significant other. Specific strains in an individuals life
such as anxiety or depression may be caused from the lack of support the individual
receives from his/her partner. Gaining support and reassurance from co-workers,
friends, or even family members may prove to be ineffective if ones significant other
is not providing some type of support (Abbey, Abramis, and Caplan, 1985). Intimate
relationships may be the most important source of social support. Cutrona (1996)
suggests that
no other source of support is as vital to an individual as that of the support
given by ones spouse or intimate partner. Usually when a person is faced
with a crises in his/her life, the spouse is the first one they turn to for support,
(p.2).
However, many people may experience both support and conflict from the
people they are closest to. Abbey et. al., (1985) found that when respondents were
faced with questions phrased as, the person closest to you social support and social
conflict were strongly correlated. Additionally, the authors found that the more
24


social conflict respondents reported receiving from the person closest to them, the
greater their anxiety and depression. These respondents also reported having a lower
quality of life (Abbey et. al., 1985.). Furthermore, Abbey et. al., (1985) suggest that
some people are more likely to receive high levels of social support and social
conflict in their relationships. The authors state, perhaps many victims of child or
spousal abuse receive this pattern of support and conflict (Abbey et. al., 1985.
p. 123). If an individual does experience a great deal of conflict within his/her
relationships it could be detrimental. Then, this individual may be unable to gain the
support needed because of the presence of a lot of conflict.
Individuals that lack adequate and dependable social support during their
childhood may have difficulty establishing sources of social support as adults.
Sarason and Sarason (1982) found that adults who lack social support at the present
time report being deprived of support in the past. It is suggested that the lack of
parental support in childhood results in a lack of confidence and self-esteem that
enables people to build supportive relationships in adulthood (Saranson and Saranson
1982).
The child who has been sexually traumatized is in desperate need of a
supportive and protective adult in his or her life. The mother and family of the incest
victim can play a crucial role in the healing process of the victim. Everson et. al.,
25


(1989) state that mothers who fail to support their children may be struggling with
their own personal problems and consequently may be out of touch with the distress
and emotional needs of their children. Everson et. al., (1989) also found that when
protective service perceives low maternal support it can be detrimental to the child.
Children with blaming or rejecting mothers are usually removed from the home
which results in the child loosing familiar activities and friends. These researchers
call for less emphasis on the mothers contribution to the occurrence of incest and
more emphasis on the mothers contribution to her childs recovery and her support.
Maternal support following the disclosure of sexual abuse is important.
Sexually abused children with non-supportive mothers experience more
psychological problems, behavior disturbances, and out of home placements than
children of supportive mothers (Everson et. al., 1989; Hunter, Coulter, Runyan, &
Everson, 1990). Professionals dealing with families after the disclosure of sexual
abuse play a huge role in how the mothers may react to the child. Many non-
offending mothers have been the victims of professionals and researchers in the field
who view them as unwilling to stop the abuse of their children. However, there is
evidence in the literature that mothers are not always co-abusers, or passive, and
unavailable emotionally for their children (Pierce & Pierce, 1985; Johnson, 1992; &
Sides & Franke,1989). As a matter of fact, based on this research it has been found
26


that the majority of mothers do believe their children when the children come
forward to report sexual abuse.
Although mothers are often times the most significant source of support for a
child, other parental and sibling support are also invaluable to a child after the
disclosure of sexual abuse. Families have the ability to both help stop the onset of
sexual abuse and also they may contribute to the healing of the child victim after the
disclosure of sexual abuse (Finkelhorl984). Everson and colleagues (1989)
summarize in their research studies that have been done on vulnerable children and
that have found that affective support, especially from the childs parents, serves as a
vital protective device. They also argue that parents, especially mothers as primary
attachment figures, are important to a childs ability to cope.
Furthermore, the response that adults display toward a child after the
disclosure of abuse is viewed as critical to the way the child perceives the experience.
If the child is supported in the disclosure of abuse and validated about the severity of
the experience then he/she may be able to minimize the self-blame and have an easier
time coping with the situation. However, if the child is ignored, ridiculed, or
punished by non-abusing adults that he/she has trusted to disclose the event to, then
this child may end up with a tremendous amount of self-blame.
Additionally, Herman (1981) found that victims have difficulty in trusting
27


others. Many of the victims reactions toward others included fear, hostility, and
betrayal. The childs best interests are met when the mother and other primary
support systems are in a position to believe the child and protect the child from
further emotional and physical abuse (Wyatt and Mickey, 1987). A mother who can
advocate for the child and protect against re-abuse seems to confer on the child the
power to be self-endorsing and to recover with minimum sequelae (Herman, 1981;
Summit, 1986). However, mothers may have a difficult time gaining the childs trust.
Many victims have a great deal of anger toward their families after the abuse,
especially toward their mothers. A major reason for this anger toward the mother,
stems from the fact that many victims of sexual abuse think their mothers knew about
the abuse when it was happening. These victims have a great deal of resentment
toward the mother for not intervening when the abuse had occurred (Herman, 1981).
According to Finkelhor (1986), deYong estimated in his study that 79% of the incest
victims have predominately hostile feelings toward their mothers and 52% were
hostile toward the abuser.
In comparison, Summit (1986) states that disbelief and rejection by potential
adult caretakers increases the helplessness, hopelessness, isolation, and self-blame
that makes up the most damaging aspect of child victimization. This, in turn, causes a
great deal of bitterness and resentment towards those who ignored the pleas of the
28


victims at the time of the abuse, causing many victims to feel more embittered
towards those who rejected their accusations than towards the one who initiated the
sexual experience. The inability and or unwillingness of adults to step in and support
the child may end up causing the child victim to internalize the event in the form of
guilt, self-blame, pain, and rage ( Summit, 1986).
Wyatt and Mickey (1987) found in their study that some of the harmful
effects of abuse can be nullified by the support of non-abusing parents and others.
These authors also suggest that even though family and parental support is important,
it is also crucial for the victim to regain control over his/her physical and
psychological space for the recovery process. Due to the fact that many victims will
never disclose the abuse to anyone during their childhood, many victims need to seek
secondary support outside of the family unit. Victims may seek the help of a private
therapist in their adult life to help obtain the support that they were unable to get as a
child.
Other types of secondary support are found with mental health professionals
who are often times sought out by the victims family or friends. Mental health
professionals are usually called in an attempt to clarify the story of abuse given by a
child. Summit (1986) argues that mental health professionals occupy a pivotal role
in the crisis of disclosure. He believes that due to the fact that the events described
29


by the child victim are so often perceived as incredible, skeptical care takers need
expert intervention to clarify the stories. In sexual crime cases where there is usually
no third party eyewitness and no physical evidence, the validation of the childs
perception of reality, acceptance by adult caretakers, and even the emotional survival
of the child may all depend on the knowledge and skill of the clinical advocate
(Summit, 1986).
Support services can also be beneficial to the entire family of the victim.
Parents are often times faced with a great deal of confusion and shock when they
discover that their child has suffered from the severe trauma of sexual abuse.
Summit (1986) believes that, without professional or self-help intervention, most
parents are not prepared to believe their child in the face of convincing denials from
the responsible adult. The author further claims that, since the majority of adults
who molest children occupy a kinship or a trusted relationship, the child is put on the
defensive for attacking the credibility of this trusted adult and for creating a crisis of
loyalty which defies comfortable resolution (p.179).
The intervention and actions of the mental health professionals can either be
beneficial or detrimental to the child victim, depending on the training of the mental
health professional. Summit (1986) states, in present practice, it is not unusual for
the clinical evaluation to stigmatize legitimate victims as either confused or
30


malicious. It is imperative that the clinician has a thorough understanding of the
childs perception of the abuse in order to legitimize the childs story in the face of
the more credible adult perpetrator. Summit (1986) further suggests that, without an
awareness of the childs reality, the professional will tend to reflect traditional
mythology and to give the stamp of scientific authority to continue stigmatizing the
child (p. 179). Summit (1986) also argues that the average adult is unable to
understand why a normal and trustworthy child would not immediately report being
violated through an act of incest or that a father could be capable of continuous
sexual molestation of his own child.
Mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists and counselors, play a
critical role in the early detection of child sexual abuse. In addition, they are a vital
component in the intervention of an abusive situation and are crucial to the treatment
of both victim and perpetrator. Equally important is the role as a courtroom advocate
and expert witness for the child. As an advocate, these professionals should support
and protect the child, while attempting to motivate skeptical caretakers into the same
position of belief, acceptance, support and protection (Summit, 1986 p. 188).
31


Purpose of the Study
One of the goals of this study is to find out whether (mothers and fathers who
are abusers themselves) receive significantly different support from external
agencies. As most of the literature focused on the support services that were
available to mothers, after the disclosure of sexual abuse. It is hypothesized that
mothers will be receiving more support from these external sources (social services,
mental health agencies, medical care providers, and financial support services) than
fathers.
Another aim of this study was to test whether denying the existence of abuse
was related to receiving support from external agencies and whether or not the
occurrence of abuse was related to receiving help. It is hypothesized that families
who deny the occurrence of abuse will receive less external support than those
families who acknowledge the occurrence of abuse. It is also hypothesized that the
occurrence of abuse will increase the amount of help families receive from external
agencies.
32


CHAPTER 3
METHOD
Sample
Data for this study come from a sample collected in North Carolina. In this
sample, 100 children who ranged in age from six to seventeen years, who had been
subjected to intrafamilial sexual abuse were referred from eleven county social
service agencies. The referrals were given to the researchers over a 30-month period
which began December 1,1983. When the social service agencies were able to
verify the claim of sexual abuse the children were enrolled in the study. The children
were followed for an eighteen month period. These children were given a mental
health assessment at the initial interview, at the five month follow up, and at the
eighteen month follow up. Data for the entire eighteen months were only obtained
for 62 of the children involved in the study.
Sample Characteristics
Of the 100 children in the sample, 88 eligible children were selected for the
study. Eighty four of these children were living with their biological mothers at the
time the abuse was disclosed. In order to compare the absence of maternal support,
33


both with ambivalent support and active nonsupport; four additional children with no
discernible source of support were included in this study. The remaining 12 children
were excluded from the study. These subjects were in the care of other family
members, such as, grandmothers, aunts, stepmothers, and foster mothers,
furthermore, since the duration and intensity of these relations were widely varied
these children were not used for this study.
Eighty-four percent of the study sample was female and the average age was
11.9 years. Sixty percent of the children in the study were white and 40% were black.
Thirty- six percent of the mothers had less than a high school degree and only 4% had
college degrees.
The majority of the perpetrators were fathers or father figures. Thirty percent
of the perpetrators were biological fathers, 41% were stepfathers, 17% were the
boyfriends of the mother, and 12% consisted of brothers, uncles, and cousins.
Penetration or oral-genital contact was experienced by seventy percent of the
children. Length of abuse ranged from one recent incident (7cases) to twelve years of
chronic abuse (2 cases), with a mean of 23 months.
34


Procedure and Instruments
Evaluations were done on the majority of the children within the first two
weeks following the disclosure of abuse. The Child Assessment Schedule was
included in the evaluation (Hodges,1987; Hodges and Cools, 1989; Hodges, Kline,
Stem, Cytryn, and McKnew,1982) as well as, a semistructured interview about the
history of abuse, disclosure, and family reaction to the allegation of abuse. The Child
Behavior Checklist was completed by the childs mother (Achenbach and Edelbroc,
1981, 1983). Additional information was gathered by asking the childs protective
service worker about the abuse allegations, family background, and familial response
to the sexual abuse report.
The Child Assessment Schedule (CAS) is a psychiatric interview that consists
of 226 items developed for clinical assessment of school aged children in clinical
settings. The interview does provide a total psychopathology score in addition to a
subscale score for depression, anxiety, self-image, somatic complaints and conduct
disorder. Interrater reliability of this schedule is high (coefficients ranging from .84
to .92) and a variety of problem children have been found to differ significantly on
this measure, further attesting to the CASs reliability and validity. (Garbarino,
Guttman, & Seeley, 1986).
35


The Child Behavior Checklist, parent form, (CBLC) was used to assess social
competence and behavioral problems among children from preschool to adolescence.
This widely used instruments validity and reliability have been established in
research (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983).
The Parental Reaction to Incest Disclosure Scale (PRIDS) was used as a
measure of maternal support available to the child following disclosure. The measure
was determined by an interview with the child, discussion with the child protective
service worker, and an interview with the childs mother. The maternal support score
is derived by adding clinical ratings of support in three areas- emotional support,
belief of child, and action toward the perpetrator with a range of+5 (most supportive)
to -5 (hostility or rejection of the child). The offenders response following the
disclosure of abuse was also collected through interviews with the child victim, the
mother if she was available, and the CPS worker. The findings were categorized as
(1) clearly admits responsibility (n= 23), (2) responds ambiguously (n=13), or (3)
clearly denies guilt (n=64) (Hunter et. al.,1990).
36


CHAPTER 4
RESULTS
Descriptive Statistics
Initial Interview
In this sample the race of the children consisted of 39% African American
and 61% White. At the initial interview, 16% of the children were male and 84%
were female. For each additional child, living within the house, the sex varied. The
sex of child number two living within the house was 4% male, 4% female, and the
remaining 92% were either missing or not checked. The sex of child number three
living within the house was 9% female, 4% male, and 87% were missing The sex of
child number four living within the house was 2% male, 2% female, and 96% were
missing. The ages reported here refer to the children within the home that were
subjected to the sexual abuse. The mean age of the first child within the household
was 8.34 for each additional child the mean age is as follows, the second childs
mean age was 9.39 the mean age for the third child was 9.62, and the fourth childs
mean age was 5.25.
37


The race of the mother, or mother substitute, in this study fell in the following
categories: fifty-eight percent were Caucasian, 39% were Black, 2% were American
Indian, and 1% were labeled as other race. When it comes to the race of father and
father substitutes, 22% was labeled as missing, 51% was Caucasian, 25% Black, 1%
was American Indian, and 1% was labeled as other race. At the initial interview, the
mean age of the mother, or mother substitute, was 29.60 and the mean age of the
father, or father substitute, was 26.79.
In this sample the educational background for mothers or mother substitutes
Was: five percent finished the eighth grade, 23% completed the eleventh grade, 32%
had a high school degree, and 3% graduated from college. The fathers and father
substitutes educational background consisted of 7% completing the eighth grade,
18% completing classes through the eleventh grade, 21% had a high school degree,
16% completed some college, only 1% were college graduates, 3% had post graduate
experience, and 16% were reported as unknown. Respondents in the sample reported
the following for the occupation of the head of the household: eighteen percent of all
the respondents reported being in a professional or technical position, 8% was self
employed, 11% was in some type of sales position, 10% was skilled workers, 26%
was semi-skilled workers, 5% was service workers, 3% was unskilled, 13% was
unemployed, 1% was students, 1% reported being retired, and 1% was house persons.
38


The living arrangements of the families involved in this study varied in terms
of who was living in the same household with the child victim. The living
arrangements included, but were not limited to, the biological parents being married
and still living together, one biological parent living with a parent substitute and other
family relatives other than the immediate family living within the same home. In this
sample, 73% of the mothers were living in the same house as the child victim, 11% of
households had mother substitutes, 28% reported that the biological father was living
in the same house as the victim, 37% had a father substitute, 5% reported that the
grandparents were living with the family, 4% stated that one other relative was living
in the house, 2% reported two other relatives living in the house, and 1 % confirmed
having four other relatives living in the house.
Respondents were asked several questions that related to problems that may
have occurred within the household. Such problems included, but were not limited
to, alcoholism, drug abuse, spousal abuse, physical health problems, and other issues
that may negatively affect the household. Of those respondents in this sample, 15%
reported having job related difficulties, 12% reported problems with alcoholism, 3%
had drug problems, 16% suffered from health problems, 20% reported mental health
problems, 39% were affected by financial difficulties, 13% acknowledged physical
39


abuse of a spouse, and 20% said there was a history of a parent being abused as a
child.
Sexual abuse was established in 56% of the cases in this sample and 28% of
the cases showed a strong indication of sexual abuse. Eight percent of the
respondents reported that the sexual abuse had been occurring over a one week
period, 22% stated the abuse lasted for 6 months, 17% reported the duration of the
abuse to be 6-12 months, and 51% indicated that the abuse lasted for one year.
Neglect and physical abuse of the child or children in the house was established in
4% of the cases checked.
In the houses where sexual abuse was present 14% reported that the victim
received medical care and 86% were missing or not applicable. Five percent of the
victims were in play therapy and 95% were missing or did not answer the question.
In this sample 58% of the victims were in individual therapy and 42% were missing
or did not answer the question. Speech and other specialized therapy was used by 4%
of the victims and 96% were missing or not applicable. Other services were planned
for 12% of the victims and 88% were missing or did not answer the question. Foster
care was planned for 19% of the victims, 73% were not checked for the question, and
8% were missing. Residential care was provided for 9% of the victims and 91% were
40


missing or did not answer the question. Fifty-seven percent of the victims received
psychological evaluations and 43% were missing or did not answer the question.
In this sample 83% of the mothers were informed of the incident and 17%
were missing or did not answer the question. The victims siblings were informed
about the sexual abuse in 49% of the cases and 51% were missing or were not
applicable. The fathers were notified about the incident in 67% of the cases and 33%
were not checked or were missing. Other people who were living within the house at
the time of the abuse were informed about the incident in 25% of the cases and 75%
were missing.
The family had remorse about the abuse in 34% of the cases and 66% were
not check or were missing. Forty-eight percent of the families had a realistic plan to
prevent the occurrence of more abuse and 50% were missing or not applicable. In
29% of the cases the perpetrator was removed from the home and 71% were missing.
Thirty-one percent of the families were involved in some type of treatment and 69%
were missing or not applicable. Twenty-six percent of the families began therapy to
protect the family unit, 64% were not checked, and 10% were missing. Forty-three
percent of the families reported that they discuss their problems and 57% were
missing or not checked. In 61% of the cases it was believed the perpetrator should
be prosecuted, 18% said the perpetrator should not be prosecuted, and 21% were
41


missing. Fifty-four percent of the families felt that it was in the best interest of the
child to prosecute the perpetrator, 25% did not, and 21% were missing.
The family denied the sexual abuse occurred in 36% of the cases, 54% were
not checked, and 10% were missing. In 17% of the cases the family denied the
seriousness of the incident, 73% were not checked and 10% were missing. Eight
percent of the families justified the incident and 92% were missing or were not
applicable. The child was removed from the home in 23% of the cases, 67% were
not checked and 10% were missing. Other actions were taken by the family to
protect the perpetrator in 13% of the cases and 87% were missing or not applicable.
Following Hunter, Coulter, Runyan, and Everson (1990), a new variable was
created to denote the offenders status. At the initial interview, 11 of the offenders
were nonresidential parents, 15 of them were the mothers live-in boyfriend, 48 of the
offenders were a residential parent and both parents lived in the household. Fifteen
of the offenders were residential parents and in those households the nonoffending
parents were not present. Eleven of the children, on the other hand, were abused by
other male relatives such as brothers, uncles, and grandfathers.
Five Month Follow Up. At the 5 month follow up interview 46% of the
natural mothers were living in the same house as the child victim, 14% of the
respondents reported a mother substitute living in the same house as the child. In
42


11% of all the cases the natural fathers were living in the same household as the
child, and 16% reported a father substitute living in the same house as the child.
Nine percent of those respondents who reported other relatives living in the house
indicated having at least one grandparent in the house and 8% had one other relative
outside the immediate family living in the house. In addition, 12% confirmed that
they had one other adult household member that was not a relative of the family.
The educational level of the mother or mother substitute in this sample was
3% completed eight years of education, 19% had 8-11 years of education, 23% had a
high school degree, 10% had some college education, 3% graduated from college,
and 1% had post graduate experience. Fathers and father substitutes reported 2%
with 8 years of education, 11% had 8-11 years of education, 15% had a high school
degree, 3% had some college, 3% graduated from college, and 1% had some post
graduate experience.
The marital status for parents or parent substitutes consisted of 35% being
legally married, 1% being in consensual union, 22% being divorced, separated, or
widowed. Single parents made up 6% of the sample and 2% of the respondents
reported that their partner was absent. Marital status was unknown or missing in 31%
of the cases.
43


In this follow up, sexual abuse was substantiated in 64% of the case checked.
A strong indication of sexual abuse was found in 6% of those cases checked and 5%
showed a weak indication of sexual abuse. Neglect and physical abuse was
substantiated in 7% of the case checked.
The person identified as the abuser in this sample was the biological mother
in only 3% of the cases. The abuser was the stepmother in 1% of the cases. The
biological father was identified as the abuser in 26% of the cases. The stepfather
committed the abuse in 31% of the cases, the mothers boyfriend was the abuser in
10% of the cases, and 6% of the abusers were identified as other people.
Several questions were asked about problems that occurred within the house
where the child was living during the abuse. Of those cases checked, 35% reported
marital problems, 17% indicated they had job related difficulties, 21% had problems
with alcoholism in the house, and 4% has drug problems. Physical health problems
were found in 13% of the cases and mental health issues were found in 21% of the
cases. Arguments and physical fights were reported in 16% of the households.
Financial problems negatively affected 32% of the cases. Physical abuse of the
spouse was found in 13% of the cases and 15% of the cases reported that at least one
parent had a history of being abused as a child.
44


In the cases where sexual abuse was found, 75% of the mothers were
informed of the abuse. Sixty-three percent of the fathers were informed and 57% of
the siblings were informed about the sexual abuse. In addition, 21% of other
household members not related to the family were informed about the abuse
occurring.
Eighteen Month Follow Up. The 18 month follow up interview addresses the
living situation of the victim since initial abuse and the problems the victim has had if
any. The following questions refer to the dependent care circumstance of the victims.
In this sample, 20% of the victims have not lived with the same family unit since the
abuse. Fifty percent of the victims have lived in the same family unit which was the
first home subsequent to the abuse. Twelve percent of the victims was living in the
same family unit which was the second home subsequent to the abuse and 1% was
living in the same family unit which was the fourth home subsequent to the abuse.
Of the subjects who have lived in different families since the abuse, 34% had a
different family as their first home subsequent to the abuse. Six percent of the
subjects in this sample reported that they lived in a different home which was their
second home subsequent to the abuse, and 1% reported that they were living in a
different home which was their fifth home subsequent to the abuse.
45


The independent living circumstances of the victims after the abuse consisted
of 76% reporting to have not lived with a husband since the abuse. Seven percent of
the subjects reported having lived with their husband since the abuse. Of the subjects
in the sample 2% reported their first home subsequent to the abuse was with their
boyfriend, while 81% reported not living with a boyfriend since the initial abuse.
Four percent of the subjects in the sample reported living with a roommate or friend
as their first home subsequent to the abuse, three percent of the victims reported
living with a roommate as their second home subsequent to the abuse, 1 % stated that
living with a roommate was their ninth home since the abuse, and 75% reported not
living with a roommate since the initial abuse. Only 1% of the victims reported
living completely independent as their first and second home since the abuse, while
81% reported not living independently since the abuse.
Some respondents were placed in living situations outside their immediate
family after the disclosure of abuse. In this sample, 8% of the victims reported foster
care as their first home subsequent to the abuse. Foster care was the second home
after the abuse for 9% of the subjects, for 6% foster care was the third home since the
abuse, 1% reported that foster care was their fourth home after the abuse, 2% stated
foster care as their fifth home since the abuse, and 57% reported not being placed in
foster care subsequent to the abuse.
46


Of the subjects in this sample 7% reported living in a group home as their first
home since the abuse, for 3% of the respondents the group home was their second
home after the abuse, and 1 % stated the group home was their third home after the
abuse. Institutional care was the first home after the abuse for 4% of the subjects, 2%
reported institutional care as their second home subsequent to the abuse, and 4%
stated that institutional care was their third home subsequent to the abuse. Since the
initial abuse 12% of the subjects in this sample were currently living in the same
house as the perpetrator, 71% were not living with the perpetrator, and 17% were not
checked in regard to where they were living. In this sample 12% of the victims ran
away from home after the abuse, 48% did not run away, and the remaining 60% were
missing or did not answer the question.
Several questions were asked in 18 month follow up regarding problems that
the victims had in their every day life such as problems with other family members
and job related problems. In this sample, 60% reported they did not have below
average job performance, 1% stated they did have below average job performance,
and 39% did not answer the question. Regarding the childs family life, 28%
reported having significant instability or problems, 32% stated they did not have
significant problems with their family life, and for 40% of the subjects this answer
was missing or the subjects did not answer the question.
47


In this sample, 20% of the victims reported having major problems with their
mother, 40% of the victims reported not having problems with their mother, and 40%
were missing or did not answer the question. Thirteen percent of the subjects
reported having significant problems with their father, 47% stated they did not have
problems with their father and 40% did not answer the question or were missing.
Significant problems with a sibling were confirmed by 17% of the subjects, 43%
reported having no significant problems with a sibling, and 40% did not answer the
question or were missing. Five percent of the subjects stated they had major
problems with other family members, 55% stated they had no major problems with
other family members, and 40% were missing or did not answer the question.
Inferential Statistics. Even though not statistically significant at the
conventional alpha level, the results indicated that mothers were slightly more
supportive to older children than they were to younger children when one compares
childrens age groups as 6 to 9 years, 10 to 12 years, 13 to 15 years, and 16 to 18
years (F=3.80. p=0.07). Mothers race, level of education, and childs gender did not
make a difference in making mothers more or less supportive. When offenders were
categorized as ex-spouse, biological father, stepfather, and current boyfriend, it was
found that mothers scores for supporting their children emotionally were highest
48


when the offender was an ex-spouse and lowest when he was a current boyfriend (as
a matter of fact they supported their children more when he was a biological father
who she was married to than when he was a current boyfriend) (F=5.98, p<0.01).
Parental reaction to the Incest Disclosure Scale (PRIDS), was used by the
researchers who collected data and measured a parents reaction and support after the
sexual abuse of the child was disclosed. However, information with this instrument
was only collected from the mothers. In cases where the biological father himself is
not the offender we do not know what support he provides to his children. This
needs to be focused on in the future.
One of the aims of this study was to investigate whether there were any
differences between mothers and fathers in terms of certain support variables. To
determine if there were differences between the social work counseling that mothers
and fathers received, a difference of proportion test was run. The test indicated that
the mothers did not receive more social work counseling than the fathers (Z=1.176, p
> 0.05).
In investigating the differences in financial support, the differences of
proportions test indicated that there was no significant difference between financial
support received by each parent. That is, the mothers did not receive more financial
support than the fathers of the victim (Z= 0.824, p>0.05). The proportions test also
49


showed no differences between the lay therapy that mothers received in comparison
to the lay therapy received by fathers (Z= 0.417, p>0.05).
To establish whether there were differences in the amount of psychiatric
services received by mothers and fathers a differences of proportions test was run.
The test indicated that mothers did not receive any different psychiatric services than
the fathers (Z= 0.654, p>0.05). When the differences of proportion test was run to
determine the differences between other types of services given to mothers and
fathers, there was no indication of different services given to mothers or fathers
( Z= -0.253, p>0.05).
In this sample there was a difference between families where child sexual
abuse was established and where it was not with respect to the availability of
financial support for the mother (x2= 89.286, df = 4,p<0.01).
Table 4.1 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 89.286 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 55.167 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 84.850 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a4 cells (44.4%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is. 90.
50


In families where child sexual abuse was established, there was a difference
from those families where it was not established in regard to social work counseling
for mothers (%2= 89.319, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.2 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 89.319 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 55.194 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 83.332 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a4 cells (44.4%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .90.
There was a difference between families where child abuse was established
and families where child abuse was not established in regard to lay therapy for the
mother {yl= 91.926,df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.3 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 91.926 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 57.966 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 85.632 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a5 cells (55.6%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .72.
51


Differences were found between families where child sexual abuse was
established and where it was not with respect to the psychiatric services available for
the mother (%2= 90.031, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.4 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 90.031 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 55.861 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 84.522 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a3 cells (33.3%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .90.
In this sample there was a difference between families where child sexual
abuse was established and families where it was not in regard to no current services
for the father (yl= 90.057, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.5 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 90.057 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 55.850 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 83.441 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a3 cells (33.3%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .90.
52


Differences were found between families where sexual abuse was established
and families where it was not in regard to financial support for the father
(X2= 89.964, df= 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.6 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 89.964 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 55.853 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 85.612 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a5 cells (55.6%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .45.
There was a difference between families where sexual abuse was and was not
established with regards to the social work counseling available to fathers
(X2=89.242, df=4, p<0.01).
Table 4.7 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 89.242 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 55.124 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 83.548 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a3 cells (33.3%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .90.
53


In respect to the lay therapy that was available to fathers, there was a
difference between those families where sexual abuse was established and those
families where it was not (x2 = 92.805,df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.8 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 92.805 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 60.095 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 85.893 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a5 cells (55.6%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .45.
There was a difference between families where sexual abuse was established
and where it was not in regard to psychiatric services for the father (%2 = 90.851, df=
4,p<0.01).
Table 4.9 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 90.851 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 56.684 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 85.151 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a4 cells (44.4%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .90.
54


In this sample there was a difference between families that denied the
occurrence of the abuse and that did not with respect to financial support for the
mothers (%2 = 100.285. df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.10 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 101.042 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 65.940 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 94.445 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a3 cells (33.3%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is 1.00.
There was a difference established between families that denied the
occurrence of the abuse and families that did not in regard to the social work
counseling available to the mother (;/2 = 100.033, df = 4, p<0.01). Chi-Square Tests
Table 4.11 Chi-Square Test
Pearson Chi-Square
Likelihood Ratio
Linear-by-Linear Association
Value df Asymp. Sig.
100.033 4 .000
65.046 4 .000
92.787 1 .000
(2-sided)
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a4 cells (44.4%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is 1.00.
55


In regard to the lay therapy that was available to the mother, a difference was
found between families that denied the occurrence of the abuse and families that did
not (%2 = 100.407. df=4, p<0.01).
Table 4.12 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 100.407 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 65.376 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 95.141 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a5 cells (55.6%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .80.
There was a difference established between families that denied the
occurrence of the abuse and did not in regard to the psychiatric services available for
the mother (/2 = 100.298, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.13 Chi-Square Test
Pearson Chi-Square
Likelihood Ratio
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
100.298 4 .000
65.288 4 .000
93.509 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a3 cells (33.3%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is 1.00.
56


In regard to the financial support that was available to the father, there were
differences established between families that denied the occurrence of the abuse and
did not {yl = 13.161, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.14 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 13.161 4 .011
Likelihood Ratio 13.585 4 .009
Linear-by-Linear Association 7.946 1 .005
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a6 cells (66.7%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is 1.50.
There was a difference between families that denied the occurrence of the
abuse and that did not with respect to the social work counseling that was available to
the father (x2 = 102.268, df=4, p<0.01).
Table 4.15 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 102.268 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 67.094 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 92.103 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a3 cells (33.3%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is 1.00.
57


A difference was found between families that denied the occurrence of the
abuse and families that did not with respect to the lay therapy available to the father
(%2 = 100.000, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.16 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 100.000 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 65.017 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 95.264 1 .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a5 cells (55.6%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is .50.
There was a difference between families that denied the occurrence of the
abuse and that did not with respect to the psychiatric services available for the father
(X2= 100.599, df = 4, p<0.01).
Table 4.17 Chi-Square Test
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 100.599 4 .000
Likelihood Ratio 65.571 4 .000
Linear-by-Linear Association 94.071 l .000
*N of Valid Cases 100
*a4 cells (44.4%) have expected count less than 5.
*The minimum expected count is 1.00.
[X3][X4]
58


CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION
The results have been quite informative in understanding household structures
and support mechanisms surrounding these households. Based on the results of this
study, it is apparent that child sexual abuse does not happen in isolation but it often
times occurs in homes where other problems exist. The results indicate, as much of
the literature does, that in families where child sexual abuse occurs there are also
problems with excessive drug and alcohol use (15%), physical abuse (13%), mental
illness (20%), health problems (16%), and financial difficulties (39%).
Sexual abuse was established in 56% of the cases in this study and 28% of the
cases showed a strong indication of sexual abuse. Eight percent of the respondents
reported that the sexual abuse had been occurring over a one week period, 22% stated
the abuse lasted for 6 months, 17% reported the duration of the abuse to be 6-12
months, and 51% indicated that the abuse lasted for one year.
The findings in this study are consistent with those found by Finkelhore
(1979) and Russell (1986) in their research on stepfathers. Each of these researchers
found that a greater number of stepfathers abuse their children than biological fathers.
In this study, the biological father was identified as the abuser in 30% of the cases.
59


41% were stepfathers, 17% were the boyfriends of the mother, and 12% consisted of
brothers, uncles, and cousins. There is a need for future research to focus on the
family dynamics within the home that lead more stepfathers to abuse their daughters.
Russell (1986) has estimated that a stepdaughter is seven times more likely to
be abused than a biological daughter. One might wonder what role education might
play in helping prevent stepfathers from future abuse. That is, many stepfathers may
have no idea what it means to enter into a new marriage and live with someone elses
children, let alone taking on the role of a father figure. These men may have no
Understanding of the emotional and psychological impact that their presence will
have on the family he is entering. If action can be taken to educate these fathers
about the dynamics that are often found in stepfamilies where sexual abuse occurs,
future abuse may be prevented. Alexander and Lupfer (1987) found that extended
families, that have had sexual abuse occurring within the family unit, have similar
characteristics found in nuclear families in which this type of abuse takes place.
These characteristics include lack of cohesiveness and adaptability as well as serious
emotional distance among family members.
Steps need to be taken in helping stepfathers bond with their stepchildren in
an appropriate manner in order to help stop future abuse. Michael Gordon (1989)
suggests that when biological fathers have been included in the early stages of
60


nurturing and caring for children, they are less likely to have a sexual desire for their
child. By fully assuming the parental role these fathers are more inhibited by the
incest taboo. If we can encourage stepfathers to partake in these same tasks it may
help potential abusive stepfathers to curb their sexual desires for their stepchildren.
Consistent with studies found throughout the literature, this sample did not
adequately represent the diverse ethnic groups that we have in American society. The
majority (60%) of the children who participated in this study were White and the
remaining children (40%) were Black. Most of the children (84%) were female with
a mean age of 11.4 years. The age range was 6 to 17 years.
Consistent with past community samples, (Wyatt, 1985; Russell, 1986; Wyatt
and Mickey, 1987; and Finkelhor, 1981) this study found no major differences
between black and white sexual abuse rates. However, I also was unable to compare
differences among other racial and ethnic groups. There is a major need for future
research on the prevalence of sexual abuse among Asian, Hispanic, and Native
American families in our society. Comparisons need to be made to establish if the
family dynamics that are found within the abusive black and white homes are also
found in other homes. Is there more acceptance of child sexual abuse among family
members or less? How do these different cultures view incest? Do abusive families
in these groups have a patriarchal structure that is typically found in Black and White
61


abusive homes? Researchers need to gain a better understanding of these questions to
protect the children in these groups from present and future abuse. Comparisons
among racial groups may help us gain an understanding of how clinicians and social
workers can better educate families and help stop the initial onset of child sexual
abuse.
Due to the fact that many of the questions in this sample focused on the child
and the support the child and family received, no direct questions about the
socioeconomic status of the family were asked. However, some questions were asked
about the parents educational background. The educational level of the mother or
mother substitute in this sample consisted of 3% completing eight years of education,
19% had 8-11 years of education, 23% had a high school degree, 10% had some
college education, 3% graduated from college, and 1% had post graduate experience.
Fathers and father substitutes reported 2% with 8 years of education, 11% had 8-11
years of education, 15% had a high school degree, 3% had some college, 3%
graduated from college, and 1 % had some post graduate experience. Due to these
findings, one can speculated that many of these families probably have a low to
middle socioeconomic status.
Child sexual abuse has often been believed to only exist in lower social
classes. However, many welfare advocates have found this idea disturbing and have
62


tried to convey the idea that child sexual abuse cuts across all social and racial
barriers (Finkelhor, 1981). Although, it could be that the violence against children is
increased when families are faced with the frustrations of poverty, joblessness, lack
of education, and inadequate housing.
Many community studies have failed to find any relationship between sexual
abuse and social class. Russells (1986) study showed no relationship between sexual
abuse and fathers education or occupation. In his research, Finkelhor (1984) found
that the victims did not come disproportionally from families at any particular
income level. However, in an earlier study Finkelhor (1980) found that girls who
came from lower income families were two-thirds more likely to be abused than the
average girl. There are still major questions that should be explored in future
research about the relationship between social economic status and child sexual
abuse. Do the side effects that are often associated with sexual abuse cause problems
for the victims in terms of upward and downward mobility in social class? What are
the statistics on the prevalence of sexual abuse in upper class families?
As far as the availability of social support for families is concerned, there was
not a great deal of difference between the support services available to mothers
versus those available to fathers in this study. These findings brings several questions
to mind. Were there no differences in support based on gender due to the fact that
63


the sample used for this study was so small? There is the possibility that mothers are
being overlooked for support or as Herman (1981) argues maybe mothers are being
labeled as co-abusers for not stopping the abuse before it occurred and are therefore
not receiving external support. Perhaps fathers and mothers are receiving a great deal
of support on an equal level. What ever the answer is, future research needs to be
pointed in this direction.
Of particular interest is the observation that there is a major shortage of
research on the non-offending fathers of children who have been sexually abused.
The data used in this study had no questions in regard to how non-offending fathers
were coping with the situation. The support variables that were measured failed to
indicate the amount of social support that was available to the fathers. As mentioned
earlier, we do know that there were no significant differences between the support
fathers received versus support mothers received. But do these fathers receive the
support they need and who do they turn to for support. Are they receiving support
from within their immediate social circles (friends and family) or does the majority of
their support come from external sources? It would be interesting to understand how
non-offending fathers are treated by professionals helping the child victim. That is,
are these fathers blamed for the occurrence of the abuse, as many mothers often are?
Gaining an understanding of the types of support and the amount of support families
64


and individual parents receive, can help understand what types of support are most
effective in helping families recover. This in tum may be able to help the child
recover with less psychological problems.
Throughout the literature several authors discuss the importance of the family,
especially the mother in the recovery of a child who has been sexually abused
(Herman,1981; Johnson, 1992; Russell,1986; and Finkelhor, 1981). Sexually abused
children with non-supportive mothers experience more psychological problems,
behavior disturbances, and out of home placements than children of supportive
mothers (Everson et. al., 1989; Hunter, Coulter, Runyan, & Everson, 1990). Due to
these findings I think that it is essential that we establish a better understanding of the
types of support that are the most productive in helping the child recover from the
traumatic event of child sexual abuse.
65


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