Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The enormous variability of negative effects putatively resulting from childhood sexual abuse has prompted researchers to consider situational and environmental factors that may contribute to differential outcome. Because the clinical literature has traditionally focused on sexual abuse of female children, the relationship with nonoffending mothers is thought to play a crucial role in recovery. However, empirical evidence is sparse.;The present study investigated the moderating effects of mother-related variables in relation to features of child sexual abuse and subsequent maladjustment. Child adjustment was assessed by standardized measures, both parent- and child-report. Information about mothers' histories of childhood sexual abuse was obtained through structured interviews, while social workers provided details of the daughters' sexual abuse. The mother-daughter relationship was examined via parent and child questionnaires and direct observations of two problem-solving discussions.;Comparisons of child adjustment, mother and daughter reports of their relationship, and interactions were made between sexually abused girls and their mothers and matched community sample of nonabused girls and their mothers. As predicted, sexually abused girls were found to be more depressed, and to exhibit more internalizing and externalizing behaviour problems than the nonabused girls. However, there were few significant differences between groups on relationship measures or observed interactions. This was likely attributable to self-selection biases in control mother volunteers and sexual abuse dyads who agreed to participate in the videotaped discussion.;A maternal history of childhood sexual abuse significantly moderated the effects of abuse seriousness on daughters' use of mothers for social support, as well as the effects of mothers' reports of relationship negatives and their response to the disclosure of sexual abuse on some adjustment measures. Associations between the abuse and some adjustment measures were significantly moderated by mother and daughter reports of negatives in their relationship, dyadic problem-solving skills, maternal response to disclosure, and use of mother for social support.;Findings were discussed in terms of childhood sexual abuse effects on the development of interpersonal relationships, measurement alternatives, and implications for treatment of children as well as education of parents.



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