Mental Health Problems in Relation to Child Sexual Abuse

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Victims of those who have experienced sexual abuse as a child have exhibited and become more prone to mental health systems later on in their lives. This is a topic of study that has been studied for years in order to help the psychology community understand the relationship between the trauma the victims have gone through with the associated long-term effects. Statistics show that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 and in 20 percent of those cases, the children were under the ages of 8 (Townsend, C& Rheinhold, A, 2013). Reseachers have found a higher incidence of mental health problems among adults who were sexually abused as children in comparison to adults who were not (O’Leary, Coohey, & Easton, 2010). Due to this, the research regarding the effects on these individuals who participated in this study reflect society. The purpose of this paper is analyze the effects of people who were sexually abused as children. A study shows the incidence and frequency of selected adults who showed mental health problems based on the sexual abuse they experienced as children.

Study Purpose and Methods

The purpose of this research study examines the relationship between victims sexual abuse and mental health symptoms during adulthood and determining whether telling someone the abuse occurred and discussing it in more depth during childhood moderates the relationship between server abuse and mental health symptoms (O’Leary, Coohey, & Easton, 2013).

Researches expected to find that the more severe the child sexual abuse was, meaning longer duration, larger frequency, greater number of abusers, assault, injury, and incest, then there will be a more substantial relation to mental health problems. Researchers also hypothesized that telling alone will not be related to fewer mental health symptoms, but that discussing the abuse relatively soon after the abuse occurs will be related to fewer mental health symptoms (O’Leary, Coohey, & Easton, 2013). Finally, they hypothesized that among respondents who were severely sexually abused, discussing the abuse with someone relatively soon after the abuse occurred will moderate the effect of server abuse on the number of mental health symptoms. 80.2% (137) were female, 19.8% (35) were male, 64% were unemployed, 60.5% completed high school or fewer years of education, most respondents lived in metropolitan Melbourne or the Regional Centre; 47.1% lived in rural Victoria. The interviewers asked the respondents to report whether, yes or no, they had experienced guilt, sadness, or grief, a sense of helplessness, emotional numbness, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, fears or phobias, dissociation, and a sense of vulnerability since the sexual abuse. In order to create a mental health symptoms index, they created a scale, theoretically ranging from 0-10. To measure frequency, respondents were asked how many times they were abused. To measure duration, participants. The age of the first abuse was subtracted from the age of the last abuse in order to determine the duration. Because these variables were highly skewed, the researchers recoded frequency (more than once = 1; once = 0) and duration (five years or less = 0; more than five years = 1). If respondents reported they were physically assaulted by their abuser(s), they received a score of 1 (were not physically assaulted = 0). Similarly, if they reported they were injured when they were sexually abused, they received a score of 1 (were not injured = 0). There were four types of injuries respondents could select from: to the skin (abrasions, scratches, or bruises), bones, muscles, and internal or external genitals or rectum. If they were sexually abused by more than one abuser, they received a score of 1 (one abuser only = 0). Finally, if the respondents knew their abuser or abusers, then they were asked about their relationship to each abuser (e.g., parent, step-parent, sibling, neighbor) and whether they considered their abuse to be incest. If they said the abuse was incest, then they received a score of 1 (0= not).

Study Results and Limitations

If the abuser physically assaulted the respondent as a child, then the respondent was more likely to report more mental health symptoms. Likewise, adults who reported they were injured by their abusers were more likely to have a greater numbers of mental health symptoms than those who did not report an injury (O’Leary, Coohey, & Easton, 2013). The results from this study also showed that adults in their 30s and 40s were more likely to report mental health symptoms than younger adults. The participants whose age were in their 20’s may be more likely to deny, repress, or minimize their sexual abuse than older adults. There is evidence to suggest that some victims may forget the abuse occurred and recall it in during their lifetime (O’Leary, Coohey, & Easton, 2013). Adults in their 30s and 40s were also more likely than older adults (50 or older) to report mental health symptoms. It is possible that mental health symptoms for survivors may worsen during middle life and then somewhat dissipate in later life. The findings from this research suggest that the age of the participants played an important role in relation to the results . The younger they were at the time of the test, the more likely they were to suppress their feelings or minimize the situation. Likewise, the amount of mental health symptoms largely varied on the degree of the sexual abuse and if they were physically assaulted.

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The purpose of this document was to investigate research studies in regard to the effect of chronic sexual abuse effects. The first study reviewed the adverse mental health problems in relation to sexual abuse inflicted on individuals when they were children. Overall, the results suggest that there is a concrete correlation between those who experience sexual abuse as children and the mental health problems derived from these experiences (O’Leary, Coohey, & Easton, 2013). Firstly, the study was a cross- sectional study which compares a group of people rather than studying the same individual over time or in this case, studying multiple people and their mental health symptoms due to sexual abuse as children. Limitations in a study such as this include divorce, substance abuse, parental substance abuse, and poor family functioning. For future studies, the researcher should take this factors into consideration and think of a way to implement them into the study.

Study Purpose and Methods

The purpose of the study was to compare symptoms of depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, learned helplessness, and strength of religious faith between those abused by a priest and those abused by a layperson. Sexual abuse by the United Sates Catholic Conference of Bishops was considered as any: contacts between a child and an adult when the child is used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult. A child is abused whether or not this activity involved explicit force, whether or not it involves genital or physical contact, whether or not the child initiates it, and whether or not there is discernable harmful outcome. Learned helplessness is defined as a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression.

The people in this particular study were all adult males over the age of 18 who had at some point during their life were sexually abused. The participants were male volunteers who responded to an invitational handout that was emailed to each chapter of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests that was listed on the SNAP website and each individual therapist listed on the website of Male Survivor. Regional directors and therapists who requested questionnaires were sent packets that contained a consent form and the individual questionnaires. A stamped return envelope was included for the questionnaires to be returned. Protocols were numbered so that no identification was necessary The demographic questionnaire was developed in order to authentication of sexual abuse by a priest or someone other than a priest. The questionnaire also contained information regarding current age, highest level of education, age of the time of first incident of abuse, duration of abuse, age at the time of first disclosing abuse, relationship to the abuser, perception of abuse effect on the faith in the Church, perception of abuse effect on the faith in God, perception of long term emotional effects of childhood sexual abuse. The mean age of disclosure of the participants for those abused by a priest were 37.18 years old and 28.85 years for those abused by other.

Learned helplessness was evaluated with the Learned Helplessness. The first items of the LHS were developed by Quinless and McDermott-Nelson and later reviewed by an expert panel. The LHS contains 20 items that test a person’s degree of learned helplessness. For each item, the person who responded is asked to read statements and rate each statement according to how closely the statement describes themselves or their feelings about themselves. ach item is scored on a 4-point scale with 1 for recommending strong disagreement, 2 for recommending disagreement, 3 showing agreement, and 4 showing strong agreement. The rating of these 20 items is summed for the total score. The highest score possible is 80. Although no cutoff scores are listed, higher scores are similar to a greater degree of learned. Depressive signs of sickness was evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory-II, which lists person’s interests, qualities, skills, etc. The BDI-II contains 21 items that test the strength of depression in both mentally healthy and depressed people. For each item, the person who responded is asked to select one of the four statements. These statements ask about particular signs of depression that the person who responded has experienced over the previous two weeks. The statements are arranged in increasing level Examinees are directed to rate each item of the BDI-II on a 4-point scale ranging from 0 to 3. The ratings for each these 21 items was summed for the total score. Total BDI-II scores can range from 0 to 63. Specific signs of PTSD were also evaluated using the Posttraumatic Stress Checklist-Specific. The PCL-S is a 17 item self-report rating scale. The items go along with judging requirements for PTSD. The first five items evaluate the sign (of sickness) of re-experiencing, the next seven items evaluate signs of avoidance, and the last five items evaluate signs of hyperarousal.

Examinees are directed to rate each item of the PCL-S using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 5(very). The ratings for each these 17 items were summed for the total score. The highest possible score possible is 85. The recommended cutoff norm for a possible identification of PTSD is a score of 50 or higher. The perpetrator’s gender for all of those of those abused by a priest was male. For those abused by someone other than a priest, 12.2% reported being abused by both a male and a female. Although abuse by a male was not a judging requirement, no one reported being abused only by a female. The current age range of the people abused was 19 through 70. There was a significant age difference between people who were part of a study who were abused by a priest and those abused by an ordinary person Also, the groups differed in the age of their first abuse. Those abused by a priest were older at the age of first abuse. Of the those abused by a priest, none were under the age of 6 years when the abuse first occurred compared to 40% of those abused by someone other than a priest who were under the age of six. Of the people sexually abused by a priest, 17.2% were first abused between the ages of 6 and 9, compared to 25% of those abused by someone other than a priest. Of the people abused by a priest, 69% were between the ages of 10 and 13, compared to 35% abused by someone other than a priest in that same age group. Of those abused by a priest, 13.8% were 14 years or older. None in the group abused by someone other than a priest were older than 13. Pearson chisquare tests were done and significant differences were found in the age of first abuse between those abused by a priest and those abused by someone other than a priest. Of those abused by someone other than a priest, 50% had told someone about the abuse by the age of 29, whereas for those abused by a priest, 50% did not report it until after 40 years of age. Before the age of 18, 25% of those who were abused by a priest and 20% of those abused by someone other than a priest had told people about their abuse. However, between the ages of 18 and 29, only 7.2% of those abused by a priest had reported their abuse compared to 30% of those abused by someone other than a priest. Between the ages of 30 and 39, 14.4% of those abused by a priest reported the abuse compared with 20% of those abused by someone other than a priest. Between the ages of 40 and 49, 28% of those abused by a priest reported the abuse compared with 30% of those abused by someone other than a priest. All of those abused by someone other than a priest had told people by the age of 49. However, 25.1% of those abused by a priest did not tell people until after the age of 49. I think that the results found from this research study were step in the right direction in order to understand the child abuse that occurs within a given religious setting. Understanding the impact it will help in contributing these actions performed by priests and non-members associated with the Church.

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