Presentation Title

The Impact of the "Sexually Abused" Label: Perceptions of Positive Traits in Children

Location

Atrium

Session Format

Poster Presentation

Research Area Topic:

Humanities & Social Sciences - Psychology, Sociology & Political Science

Co-Presenters, Co- Authors, Co-Researchers, Mentors, or Faculty Advisors

Kimberly Iannacone

C. Thresa Yancey

Abstract

The current study investigated the impact a label of “sexually abused” has on adults’ perceptions of children. Specifically, we investigated perceptions of positive traits of children labeled “sexually abused” compared to children labeled as “mother dying of cancer,” or having “normal” development.

Being labeled as sexually abused may result in automatic negative perceptions of the labeled person (Goldsmith et al., 2009; Paul et al., 2011). Immediate and long-term negative effects can be associated with children who have a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA; Paolucci et al., 2001). In addition, there is an increased risk of psychological and behavioral problems with children who have a parent die (Kaplow et al., 2010). Although these groups of children may have similar outcomes, adults attribute fewer positive traits to children labeled as “sexually abused” than labeled as “mother dying of cancer.”

Participants include 333 undergraduate adults (57.3% women, 42.7% men) enrolled at a medium-sized southeastern university. Most were Caucasian (79.3%), with 12.3% African American, and 6.3% other. Participants read a short description of a child’s aggressive behavior and given brief background information (age, gender, family background – “normal,” “sexually abused,” or “mother dying of cancer”). Participants then completed the Child History Expectations Questionnaire (CHEQ), a measure of perceptions of child’s positive traits.

A one-way ANOVA was conducted to examine differences on perceptions of positive traits based on child history. Significant differences were found: F(2, 333) = 6.547, p = .002. Participants rated children labeled as “sexually abused” as having fewer positive traits than both those labeled as “mother dying” and “normal.”

Children with CSA histories are seen by adults as having negative consequences and fewer positive traits. It is likely that parents, teachers, and others significant to the child will treat a child differently based solely on label, regardless of actual presentation of child. Clinical applications will be discussed.

Keywords

Child sexual abuse, Labels, Automatic perceptions, Positive traits, Clinical applications

Presentation Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

Start Date

4-24-2015 10:45 AM

End Date

4-24-2015 12:00 PM

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Apr 24th, 10:45 AM Apr 24th, 12:00 PM

The Impact of the "Sexually Abused" Label: Perceptions of Positive Traits in Children

Atrium

The current study investigated the impact a label of “sexually abused” has on adults’ perceptions of children. Specifically, we investigated perceptions of positive traits of children labeled “sexually abused” compared to children labeled as “mother dying of cancer,” or having “normal” development.

Being labeled as sexually abused may result in automatic negative perceptions of the labeled person (Goldsmith et al., 2009; Paul et al., 2011). Immediate and long-term negative effects can be associated with children who have a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA; Paolucci et al., 2001). In addition, there is an increased risk of psychological and behavioral problems with children who have a parent die (Kaplow et al., 2010). Although these groups of children may have similar outcomes, adults attribute fewer positive traits to children labeled as “sexually abused” than labeled as “mother dying of cancer.”

Participants include 333 undergraduate adults (57.3% women, 42.7% men) enrolled at a medium-sized southeastern university. Most were Caucasian (79.3%), with 12.3% African American, and 6.3% other. Participants read a short description of a child’s aggressive behavior and given brief background information (age, gender, family background – “normal,” “sexually abused,” or “mother dying of cancer”). Participants then completed the Child History Expectations Questionnaire (CHEQ), a measure of perceptions of child’s positive traits.

A one-way ANOVA was conducted to examine differences on perceptions of positive traits based on child history. Significant differences were found: F(2, 333) = 6.547, p = .002. Participants rated children labeled as “sexually abused” as having fewer positive traits than both those labeled as “mother dying” and “normal.”

Children with CSA histories are seen by adults as having negative consequences and fewer positive traits. It is likely that parents, teachers, and others significant to the child will treat a child differently based solely on label, regardless of actual presentation of child. Clinical applications will be discussed.