Characteristics of sexually abused children and their nonoffending mothers followed by child welfare services: The role of a maternal history of child sexual abuse

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Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 25(5), 504–523.

Considering the importance of mother’s support in the adaptation of a sexually abused child, it is relevant to determine if the mothers and children involved in an intergenerational cycle of child sexual victimization differ from dyads in which only the child has been abused. The purpose of this study was to compare mother–child dyads with sexually abused children according to whether the mother had herself been victim of child sexual abuse. The sample included 87 dyads with sexually abused children aged 3–18 years old and their mothers (44 reporting maternal and child abuse), followed by social welfare services of the province of Quebec (Canada). The two groups of mothers were compared on their past family abuse experiences and past family relations, their mental health history, their current psychological distress, their parenting behaviors, and their current levels of family functioning. Children were compared on their adaptation. Multivariate analyses indicated that mothers reporting child sexual abuse were more likely to report more other maltreatments in their childhood and greater prevalence of lifetime history of alcohol abuse disorders, dysthymia, and panic disorder compared with mothers who had not experienced CSA. Compared to children whose mothers had not experienced CSA, those whose mothers had experienced CSA showed higher rates of problems behaviors and were more likely to report having been sexually abused by a trusted person. These results highlight the specific clinical needs for the assessment and treatment for sexually abused children whose mothers experienced child sexual abuse.

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