Mothers' protection of their children after discovering they have been sexually abused: An information-processing perspective
Objective The purpose of this study was to understand why some non-offending mothers did not protect their children consistently after they knew they were sexually abused. Methods The sample included 85 mothers who were involved with child protective services: 48 mothers who protected their children consistently were compared to 37 mothers who did not. Results Several variables explained 47% of the variance in the multivariate analysis. If the mother did not ask the abuser whether the abuse occurred, attributed responsibility to the abuser, believed consistently that the abuse occurred, and was not a victim of domestic violence, then she was more likely to protect her child consistently. Conclusions Some maternal characteristics believed to affect protectiveness, such as mothers' mental health and substance abuse, were not related to whether they protected their children consistently, whereas other variables, such as domestic violence, were. Researchers need to continue to examine these and other variables simultaneously, so that practitioners can better understand which children are most likely to receive inadequate protection. Practice implications Practitioners should ask mothers whether they believe the abusers' behavior was sexual and abusive. If mothers do not perceive sexual abuse, then they will not believe abuse occurred or attribute responsibility to the abusers. Helping mothers understand the nature of sexual abuse may change their beliefs and attributions. If the abuser is the mother's partner and he has physically assaulted her, practitioners need to assess her willingness and ability, with adequate services and support, to restrict his access to her child.
Child Abuse & Neglect
Social Work not elsewhere classified