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NCJ Number: 193386 Find in a Library
Title: Trying to Understand Why Horrible Things Happen: Attribution, Shame, and Symptom Development Following Sexual Abuse
Journal: Child Maltreatment  Volume:7  Issue:1  Dated:February 2002  Pages:26-41
Author(s): Candice Feiring; Lynn Taska; Kevin Chen
Date Published: February 2002
Page Count: 16
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article concerns the nature of specific attributions for sexual abuse and their relation to general attribution style for negative events, shame, and symptom development.
Abstract: Three major issues are addressed: (1) the nature of specific attributions for the abuse at the time of the abuse discovery and 1 year later; (2) the coherence among specific attributions for the abuse and general attributional style; and (3) the role of abuse characteristics, abuse-specific and general attribution style, and shame in the development of symptomatology. The longitudinal sample of 137 participants consisted of 80 children and 57 adolescents who were confirmed cases of sexual abuse. All participants were initially assessed within 8 weeks of the discovery of the abuse (before they received any treatment), and 1 year later. In open-ended response, when asked to describe why they thought the abuse happened, many of the children gave external attributions at the time of abuse discovery and a year later. Of these external attributions, the most common was a statement about the negative attributes or circumstances of the perpetrator. The tendency to use external attributions to explain the abuse also was observed on responses to the Abuse Attribution Inventory (AAI) items. Gender, age, and number of abuse events were related to outcomes. Compared to boys, girls showed higher levels of hyperarousal and sexual anxiety. Compared to children, adolescents were higher in depressive symptoms, had poorer self-esteem, and showed less sexual anxiety. The more Internal-Traits/Behaviors attributions, the higher the symptoms and lower the self-esteem. The more the abuse was attributed to the mother not being aware, the higher the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms of intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Support for the mediational effect of shame on the relation between abuse attributions and symptoms was found. The results showed that abuse-specific attributions were important for understanding victims’ adjustment following abuse discovery. 5 tables, 8 notes, 65 references
Main Term(s): Child abuse; Child Sexual Abuse; Psychological victimization effects
Index Term(s): Abused children; Child victims; Crimes against children; Emotional disorders; Family offenses; Long term health effects of child abuse; Victim reactions to crime
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