Effects of the child-perpetrator relationship on mental health outcomes of child abuse: It's (not) all relative
Child Abuse & Neglect
The present study was conducted to better understand the influence of the child-perpetrator relationship on responses to child sexual and physical trauma for a relatively large, ethnically diverse sample of children and youth presenting for clinical evaluation and treatment at child mental health centers across the United States. This referred sample includes 2,133 youth with sexual or physical trauma as their primary treatment focus. Analyses were conducted to ascertain whether outcomes were dependent on the perpetrator's status as a caregiver vs. non-caregiver. Outcome measures included psychiatric symptom and behavior problem rating scales. For sexual trauma, victimization by a non-caregiver was associated with higher posttraumatic stress, internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, depression, and dissociation compared to youth victimized by a caregiver. For physical trauma, victimization by a non-caregiver was also associated with higher posttraumatic symptoms and internalizing behavior problems. The total number of trauma types experienced and age of physical or sexual trauma onset also predicted several outcomes for both groups, although in disparate ways. These findings are consistent with other recent studies demonstrating that perpetration of abuse by caregivers results in fewer symptoms and problems than abuse perpetrated by a non-caregiving relative. Thus, clinicians should not make a priori assumptions that children and adolescents who are traumatized by a parent/caregiver would have more severe symptoms than youth who are traumatized by a non-caregiver. Further exploration of the role of the perpetrator and other trauma characteristics associated with the perpetrator role is needed to advance our understanding of these findings and their implications for clinical practice. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
School of Medicine