Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Work

Abstract

The consequences of intrafamilial child sexual abuse (CSA) often evolve beyond the termination of abuse and pervade into adulthood, posing complex and enduring consequences for survivors (Courtois, 1999; Briere, 1992; Herman, 1981, 1991; van der Kolk & Kadish, 1987; Chu & Dill, 1990). The concepts of attachment, shame, and dissociation- in the context of childhood sexual abuse-are significant areas of study when working with adult survivors. The present study included 49 women with a history of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by a parental-figure. The purpose of the study was to identify the relationships among adult attachment styles, shame, dissociation, and specific CSA characteristics (age at onset, relationship to the perpetrator, duration of abuse, experience of other types of abuse). Participants voluntarily and anonymously participated in completing 4 self-administered measures on demographics, adult attachment styles, levels of shame, and levels of dissociation. Treatment variables were also investigated including type of treatment currently being received at the agency, frequency of this treatment, and overall duration of treatment to assess their possible relationships to adult attachment styles, levels of shame and dissociation, and CSA characteristics.

The major findings suggest that the experience of earlier age at onset, having a father as the perpetrator, longer duration of abuse, and experience of other types of abuse lends to a greater likelihood towards fearful attachment style; adult survivors with fearful

attachment styles are more likely to have high level of shame; and adult survivors with high level of shame have high level of dissociation. Additional findings of importance are that the experience of earlier age at onset, having a father as the perpetrator, longer duration of abuse, and experience of other types of abuse lends to a greater likelihood towards both high levels of shame and high levels of dissociation which in turn were related to more frequent treatment. The finding also suggests that adult survivors with a high level of dissociation stay longer in treatment.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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