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Resilience and Adult Attachment in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse

Resilience and Adult Attachment in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse

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Published by Jane Gilgun
Mothers and other non-offending parents have various responses when they learn that someone has sexually abused their children. Attachment and resilience theory can help parents understand their own reactions and service providers to understand parents' reactions. In addition, adult attachment theory can provide guidelines for parents in their desire to deal constructively with their children's sexual abuse. This theory can guide practitioners in developing helpful responses. The common factors model also helps parents and service providers understand the various influences on family development and resilience after the sexual abuse becomes known.
Mothers and other non-offending parents have various responses when they learn that someone has sexually abused their children. Attachment and resilience theory can help parents understand their own reactions and service providers to understand parents' reactions. In addition, adult attachment theory can provide guidelines for parents in their desire to deal constructively with their children's sexual abuse. This theory can guide practitioners in developing helpful responses. The common factors model also helps parents and service providers understand the various influences on family development and resilience after the sexual abuse becomes known.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Jane Gilgun on Feb 12, 2011
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01/30/2013

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Resilience&AdultAttachmentinCasesofChildSexualAbuse
ByJaneGilgun&WendyAnderson
Requires
 
Supportivenetworksoffamilies,friends,communityorganizations,andhelpingsystems
 
Workingallianceswithserviceproviders
 
Competentserviceprovision
 
Optimismofserviceusersandserviceprovidersthatthingscangetbetter
TypesofAdultAttachmentResolved/Secure
:
Familyresilienceis
likely
whentheaboveconditionsaremet.
Dismissive
:
Familyresilienceis
 possible
whenaboveconditionsaremet;optimismoftenanissue;workingalliancecanbeanissueascansupportivenetworks;
parentsmustdealwithownissuesanddoalltheycanforthesakeoftheirchildren.
Preoccupied
:
Familyresilienceis
 possible
whenaboveconditionsaremet;optimismoftenanissue;workingalliancecanbeanissueascansupportivenetworks;
parentsmustdealwithownissuesanddoalltheycanforthesakeoftheirchildren.
Disorganized
:
Familyresilienceis
difficult
toachieve;morelikelyasanyoftheabovefourconditionsaremetand
parentsdealwithownissuesanddoalltheycanforthesakeoftheirchildren.
ChildrencanrecoverfromtraumaandgoontolivesatisfyinglivesIftheyexperiencethesafetyofsecurerelationsh
ips JaneF.Gilgun,Ph.D.,LICSW,isaprofessorandWendyAnderson,MSW,isaPh.D.studentattheSchoolofSocialWork,UniversityofMinnesota,TwinCities.
 
2
Resilience&AdultAttachmentinCasesofChildSexualAbuse
ByJaneGilgun&WendyAndersonUniversityofMinnesota,TwinCities,USA
Mothersofchildsurvivorsofsexualabuse
arekeytochildren’srecovery.Sexualabuseisatraumaforchildren.Researchonattachment,trauma,andresilienceshowsthatchildrencanrecoverfromtraumaandgoontolivesatisfyinglivesiftheyhavethesafetyofsecurerelationshipsandifparentsinturnhavethesafetyofsecurerelationships.Mothersandfathers,wheneitherparentisnotthepersonwhoabusedchildrensexually,canprovidethissafety.Besidesprovidingthesafetyofsecurerelationships,recoveryfromchildsexualabuseinvolvesotherfactors,whicharecalledcommonfactorsinserviceoutcomes.Thesefactorsaresupportivenetworksoffamilies,friends,communityorganizations,andhelpingsystems;workingallianceswithserviceproviders;competentserviceprovision;andoptimismofserviceusersandserviceprovidersthatthingscangetbetter.Inordertobeemotionallyavailabletotheirchildren,parentsrequiretheirownsupportiverelationships.Ittakeavillagetoraiseachild.Ittakesavillagetohelpachildrecoverfromchildsexualabuse.Ifthesefactorsareinplace,incombinationwithparentswhocanprovidethesafetyofsecurerelationships,childrenarelikelytorecoverwellfromtheeffectsofchildsexualabuse.Childrenaresaidtoberesilientwhentheyhavecopedwith,adaptedto,andovercometheeffectsofchildsexualabuse.Whenparentsandchildrenshowthesecapacities,thefamilyshowsresilience.Theissueforserviceprovidersistoassessfamilysituationintermsofthefactorsassociatedwithresilienceandthentosupportparents’sensitiveresponsivenesstotheirtraumatizedchildren.Providerscanrecommendarangeofserviceoptionstoparentsandchildren.Effectiveservicesenhancerelationshipsbetweenparentsandchildren.Ideasfromattachmentresearchcanhelpserviceprovidesassessforwhetherparentshavecapacitiestoprovidethesafetychildrenrequiretorecoverfromsexualabuse.Theresearchonwhichthisposterisbasedinterviewedmothersofsurvivors.Inthishandout,wefocusonmothers,butthematerialcanbetestedforfitwithfathersandotherpotentialcareproviders.Serviceprovidersshouldalsotestfindingsfortheirfitwithothermothers.Intheiron-goingassessment,careproviderspayattentionnotonlytoattachmentissues,butalsoissuesrelatedtonetworksofothersystemsthataffectchildrenandfamilies,tobuildingworkingrelationshipswithfamilymembers,andmonitoringtheirownoptimismandtheoptimismofserviceusers.Akeytraitofeffectivepracticeisthatserviceprovidersaresensitivelyresponsivetoparentsandchildren.
 
3
Developingeffectivestrategiesforactionrequiresthatserviceprovidersworkcooperativelywithparents,childsurvivors,andotherfamilymembersandenlistconnectionswithsupportiveservicesandpersonalnetworks.Theycontinuallymonitorwhatishappeningforfamiliesandthemselvesandadjusttheiractionsaccordingly.Thefollowingprovidesadditionalinformationonadultstylesofattachmentandtheirrelationshiptotherecoveryofchildrenfromchildsexualabuse.
TwoGeneralStylesofAdultAttachment
Therearetwogeneralstylesofadultattachment.Thefirststyleisresolved/secure.Thesecondstylehasthreedifferenttypes:dismissive,preoccupiedanddisorganized.Children’sstylesofattachmenttypicallymirrorthoseofparents.Parentswithresolvedstylesofattachmentaremostlikelytoprovidetheirtraumatizedchildrenwiththesafetyofsecurerelationshipsandseekoutvarioustypesofhelp,suchaspsychoeducation,self-helpgroups,therapyforthechildrenandsometimesforthemselves,amongotherhelpfulresponses.Theymayatfirstbeupsetandevendisorientedwhentheylearnaboutthesexualabuse,buttheygrapplewiththeirowntraumaabouttheissuesandfocusonwhatchildrenneed.Parentswithotherstylesofattachmentmayalsoprovidechildrenwiththesafetyofsecurerelationships,butthismaytakethemmoretimethanparentswhohaveresolvedstyles.Theymayrequireintensivetherapy,self-helpgroups,andeducationabouttraumaandsexualabuse.Whatcountsistheirwillingnesstogetthiskindofhelp.Iftheyrefusetotakethesesteps,thenserviceprovidershavetoconsultwithotherstomakeaplanforwhattodotoensurethatchildrenhavethesafetyofsecurerelationshipsthattheirparentscannotprovide.Thismaymeanpetitionstothecourtandfostercare.
FourTypesofAdultAttachment
Thefollowingprovidesanoverviewofthefourtypesofadultattachment.
1.
 
Secure/Resolved
 
Providesensitive,attunedcareforchildren
 
Provideconsistencyandstructureinfamilylife
 
Modelsandrewardsprosocialbehaviorsforchildren
 
Setslimitsoninappropriatebehaviors,explainswhybehaviorsareinappropriate,andguideschildrentowardbehavinginappropriate,prosocialways
 
Iftheyhaveexperiencedtrauma,theyacknowledgethetraumaanditsmeaningsandeffects,andhavedealtwithit,usuallythroughtherapyandsometimesself-helpgroups
 
Showsevidenceoflong-term,trusting,confidantrelationshipswithothers,beginninginchildhood
 
Hasagoodsenseofwhototrustandnottotrust

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