Child Sexual Abuse as it Pertains to Cognitive and Emotional Development

This study will explore child sexual abuse and how it pertains to the growth and development in victims. Child sexual abuse can also be referred to as child molestation. It is only one form of child abuse. Child sexual abuse is when someone who is an adult or who is in adolescent years uses a child for sexual gratification. It can include engagement in sexual activities, child pornography, or indecent exposure. This trauma that the child is exposed to opens a world of shame.

Many times the abuser is well known and around the child. One in ten children experience child sexual abuse before they reach the age of eighteen. It is said that stranger danger doesn't actually exist. Those that are perpetrators are either close to the child's family or are of blood relation. If you or anyone you know has been through sexual abuse and is still struggling with the trauma there is a help line, all calls are confidential and care for all those across the united states.

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The study focused on a group of 147 participants and discussed the time of abuse and a year after following adjustment. It was found that the age and gender did indeed differ in adjustment over time. There is said to be evidence that suggests that the adjustment differs on the level of severity the abuse was for the individual. Whether the abuse have a longer duration, if it was forced and if it was by a parental figure.

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(Browne & Finkelhor 1986; Kendall-Tackett et. al; 1993; Mennen & meadow 1995) 83 of the 147 participants were within the ages of 8 to 11 61 being girls and 22 being boys. The rest of the participants were adolescents varying in ages from 12-15 (47 girls and 17 boys) 46% of which the last abusive act occurred two weeks or less before the time of discovery.

The initial assessment happened within 8 weeks of uncovering the abuse before any treatment was given. For the follow up assessment that happened after a year of the discovery of abuse 8% of the initial participants weren't accounted for either because of not locating them or because they did not want to participate in the assessment further. The majority of the participants came from single family households and were poor (making under $25,000 a year) that amounted to 71%. 40% of the participants were african american, 34% were white, 18% were latino and 8% were classified as other. The study hypothesized the experience of shame as a repercussion of sexual abuse and it is said to be an important mechanism which child sexual abuse victims develop adjustment problems. (Feiring and Taska; Lewis 2002)

Symptoms of shame usually are the want to disappear, depressed like symptoms and self blame. It's said that the feeling of shame is intensified when the discovery process was in affect. The child may feel this way when they are exposed to public scrutiny because by that time family, child services, and legal teams all know about the situation. Taking into account the severity of the abuse, shame may fall harder on the individual due to the trauma and the feeling that they didn't have any power to change their situation. This study takes a look at both shame and the individuals attributional style and how it affects adjustment. Attributional style is the way that you explain the causes of events and your answers can determine where you fall in categories related to self esteem and depression. There are generally three dimensions that your attributional style can fall under 1 being temporary vs stable, 2 global vs specific, 3 internal vs external.

The measures that the study conducted had to do with 7 different exams for different characteristics or emotions if you would:

Abuse characteristics were taken from a checklist that was designed to collectively take data that had specifics to abuse. The checklist asked about the form of abuse, information on the perpetrator and the duration the abuse lasted for. It went deeper to ask how the abuse was discovered and what they experienced during the abuse. It also added how the victims case was confirmed and the medical findings that proceeded. As a result, 67% of the study experienced genital penetration. An alarming amount of the perpetrators were known to the victims with 35% being a parental figure. 25% were related to the victims and 37% were known but not related to the victims. Only 3% of the perpetrators were strangers. To make matters even more uncomfortable 37% of the perpetrators lived with the victims at the time the abuse was taking place. 33% of the sample's duration of abuse lasted a year or longer. The study did want to create abuse profiles but given the many different outcomes of characteristics it wasn't ideal for this study.

When it came to attribution they used the revised version of the Child's Attributional Style Questionnaire, which used 24 forced-choice items. (Thomson, Kaslow, Weiss, & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998) The questionnaire asked them attribunal questions that pertained to their abuse. There are outcomes of both positive and negative and the participants have to choose out of two answers on why they believe the event that took place had happened to them.

Abuse Attribution Risk was conducted with An abuse Attribution inventory (AAI) that was developed specifically for this study to understand the internal and external attributions specific to the abuse in particular. Each question is rated on a scale of 0 to 3, 3 being very true.

Shame was tested as well, of course. There we four items on this part particularly made for this study; 'I'm ashamed because i feel i am the only one in my school who this happened to', 'what happened makes me feel dirty', 'i feel ashamed because i think people can tell by looking at me what happened.' These questions were also graded 0 to 3, 3 being very true.

Self esteem was measured using the profiles from Harter's Self Perception Profile (1985) and Self-Perception Profile (1988) they then tested 6 items for children and 5 items for adolescents with a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the most positive self evaluation.

Depressive symptoms were then tested using Kovacs Children's Depression Inventory (1985). The test entailed a total of 27 questions. The test measures the quantity of depressive symptoms, including but not limited to the disruption of mood and interpersonal behaviors. In this sampled exam the Child depression inventory was quite high.

Last but not least, they measured Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are an array of questions to be answered on yet another scale of 1 to 3, 3 being very true. The exame in effect is called The Children's Impact of Traumatic Events Scale- Revised, CITES-R for short. With a total of 26 items, 8 of them tap into the avoidance to get away from the event, 7 of them assess the reexperiencing complex of nightmares and memories, 6 items have to do with irritability, difficulties in concentrating etc., 5 items measured anxiety in the association of sexual behavior. The higher the score was the more PTSD symptoms you were known to have.

To obtain a score of abuse severity the study calculated the characteristics of abuse that the research implied would related to worse outcomes and that are rated in professional opinions that might come out with more severity. For every child they counted whether or not they had experienced a level of severity of 6 different abuse characteristics; one being penetration, another being having a parental figure be your perpetrator, whether or not the perp lives with the child during the time of the abuse, whether or not the use of force was present and if the events lasted to 10 times or more for over a year. (Chaffin, Wherry, Newlin, Crutchfield, & Dyckman, 1997; Kendall-Tackett et al.;1993.) when the results were placed in summary the score was totaled from zero to six, six being more severe. This exams scoring system was faulty given that each questions answers got one point regardless of what is was. And I don't believe all six of these questions deserve an equal amount of points because some of them can have a greater or more severe effect on the child than another one might.

To examine the length of shame and attribution and how, if they directly related to adjustment of a year following the discovery of abuse they conducted two sets of hierarchical linear regressions. The first one examined the time one and the second one examined a year after.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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Child Sexual Abuse as it Pertains to Cognitive and Emotional Development. (2019, Dec 13). Retrieved from

Child Sexual Abuse as it Pertains to Cognitive and Emotional Development essay
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