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Thesis ABSTRACT

The relationship between childhood physical and sexual abuse, family dysfunction, and adult psychological functioning in a sample of adult psychiatric inpatients
by Daniels, Jill Walker, M.A., University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1995

This study sought to examine the relationship between childhood physical and sexual abuse and family dysfunction (having substance abusing or mentally ill caretakers or being physically neglected) and to determine the unique and independent relationship of family dysfunction and abuse experiences to global distress and dissociative symptoms in adulthood. One hundred and fifty adult psychiatric inpatients reported their childhood family and abuse histories, current global distress (SCL-90-R) and dissociative symptoms (DES). Results indicated that family dysfunction was associated with sexual abuse (r = .31, p <.01) and physical abuse (r = .33, p <.01). Family dysfunction was shown to be a unique predictor of global distress, after accounting for abuse experiences, F (1,146) = 6.35, p = .01. Abuse experiences were unique predictors of global distress after accounting for family dysfunction, F (2,146) = 5.16, p < .01. Sexual abuse was a unique predictor of dissociative symptoms, after accounting for global distress and family dysfunction, F (1,146) = 4.82, p < .05. Physical abuse was a unique predictor of dissociative symptoms after accounting for family dysfunction, F (1,147) = 4.76, p < .05, and after accounting for global distress, F (1,147) = 7.32, p < .01, but not when both global distress and family dysfunction were controlled. These results provide support for the abuse-specific theory that maintains that abuse experiences, demonstrated most convincingly here for sexual abuse experiences, are not simply another component to a chronically negative family environment or an outgrowth of a high level of distress, but that they are related in a unique and important way to dissociation.