Many predictors of PTSD have been identified in the literature, and can include pre-trauma, peri-trauma, and post-trauma factors (Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000). The PTSD-social support link has especially been well represented, and a large number of studies have examined the role of social support in predicting and buffering the effects of PTSD. Fewer studies to date have examined social support specific to child abuse experiences, as well as its relationship to disclosure and self-labeling abuse. This study aimed to understand the relationship between objective (i.e., participants were asked whether an experience had occurred) and subjective (i.e., participants were asked whether they applied the term abuse to their experience) experiences of childhood physical and sexual abuse, childhood social support, disclosure of abuse, and posttraumatic symptoms (i.e., PTSD, depression, and dissociation). This archival study was part of a larger study examining childhood experiences and adult psychopathology. Participants were 217 psychiatric inpatients, ages 30 to 45, from the northeast region of the United States. A combination of self-report questionnaires and structured interviews were used to gather demographics, childhood experiences, trauma histories, perceived social support, and posttraumatic symptoms. As expected, abuse severity was a strong predictor of psychopathology. Contrary to hypotheses, abuse severity was not related to perception of experiences as abusive. Also contrary to hypotheses, individuals who did not self-label sexual experiences as abuse were more likely to meet criteria for PTSD. Many participants in this study did not self-label abuse despite endorsing victimization of physical acts and sexual experiences. Furthermore, the majority of participants did not disclose abuse, and when it was disclosed, most perceived negative reactions to disclosure. As expected, negative reactions to disclosure of abuse were related to more severe PTSD and dissociation. Perceived childhood social support was related to fewer posttraumatic symptoms, however it did not moderate the relationship between abuse severity and posttraumatic symptoms. This study has implications for assessment of abuse in clinical and research settings, disclosure of abuse to family/friends and professionals, and the impact of early social support on adult psychiatric outcomes. Limitations to the study and areas for future research are also discussed.
|Advisor:||Dalenberg, Constance J.|
|Commitee:||Thomas, Michael R., Thorp, Steven R.|
|School:||Alliant International University|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 78/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Abuse disclosure, Child abuse, Dissociation, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Self-labeling abuse, Social support|
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