Psychological Adjustment and Caregiver Attributes in Children Referred to Contact House. QUT Abused Child Trust Collaborative Study
Schweitzer, Robert, Walsh, Kerryann M., Fraser, Jennifer A., Farrell, Ann, Head, Kathryn A., Petriwskyj, Andrea M., Berger, Linda H., & Medoro, Rosalba (2006) Psychological Adjustment and Caregiver Attributes in Children Referred to Contact House. QUT Abused Child Trust Collaborative Study. Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, IHBI, QUT.
Child abuse and neglect (CAN) encompasses a heterogenous group of adverse practices with devastating personal, social, educational, health, legal and welfare consequences. The term child abuse and neglect covers four types maltreatment: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, with many children experiencing a combination of these types. Australian child protection notifications have more than doubled in the 5-year period to 2004. Of most concern is that, of all the Australian States and Territories, Queensland has the highest rate of substantiated cases with 14.1 per 1,000 children (AIHW, 2006).
Childhood abuse and neglect can have profound short- and long-term effects. Children with a history of abuse and neglect have been shown to experience insecure attachment, developmental delays, diminished social skills, violent behaviour and learning problems. Previous studies have also found that abused and neglected children frequently experience a higher incidence of a diverse range of adverse mental health outcomes including helplessness and sadness, lowered self-esteem and post traumatic stress disorder. However, relatively few studies have examined the psychological adjustment of children in more immediate terms especially within an Australian context. Furthermore, adults experiencing CAN during childhood frequently exhibit diverse psychopathologies.
The variability in adverse consequences suggests the existence of mediating and moderating factors influencing the level of distress experienced by children. While associations have been made between factors surrounding the type of abuse, the child’s age and gender and negative outcomes, little is known about the role of the child’s non-offending caregiver and the relationship between caregiver attributes and the level of distress experienced by the child.
A primary aim of this study was to investigate caregiver attributes and the psychological adjustment of children referred to a non-government treatment centre. This specific aims were: (i) to describe the psychological adjustment of children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect (ii) to compare the psychological functioning of children presenting for treatment with a community sample of children (iii) to describe the level of psychosocial functioning of the caregivers in the clinical group across a range of psychosocial and parenting practice variables and (iv) to explore the relationship between demographic variables, factors relating to the abuse and neglect, and caregiver variables, which may predict, mediate, or moderate the child’s psychological adjustment. In addition the study aimed to establish a database for future research into treatment outcomes.
Through the inclusion of a comparison community sample, this study provided evidence to complement existing research and develop a more complete picture of families living with and without CAN. The findings also offer preliminary evidence regarding the effectiveness of treatment and underscore the need for ongoing evaluation of service outcomes to optimise the quality of life for children and families affected by CAN.
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