Presentation Title

Perceptions of Children Experiencing Trauma: Internalizing, Externalizing, and Future Success

Location

Atrium

Session Format

Poster Presentation

Research Area Topic:

Humanities & Social Sciences - Psychology, Sociology & Political Science

Abstract

The current study examined differences among perceptions of children labeled either “normal,” “mother dying of cancer,” or “sexually abused” on internalizing and externalizing symptoms and future success. When individuals are negatively evaluated, they may behave consistently with that evaluation (Merton, 1948). Being labeled as sexually abused can create perceptions of the labeled person, including greater externalizing (e.g., aggression, conduct problems) and internalizing symptomatology (e.g., depression, anxiety; Briggs et al., 1995).

Children with a history of CSA can have immediate and long-term outcomes, such as internalizing and externalizing symptoms (Paolucci et al., 2001); these may diminish (Kendall-Tackett et al., 1993). In addition, children who have a parent die demonstrate increased risk of psychological problems (Kaplow et al., 2010), including lower peer attachments, less work success, and diminished education aspirations (Brent et al., 2012). However, despite these groups of children experiencing similar problematic behaviors, research demonstrates adults attribute greater negative behaviors to CSA-labeled children than those having a parent who is dying (Saathoff-Wells et al., 2005). While we do not minimize the impact of CSA, we want to reduce bias that may occur toward those who have experienced CSA (i.e., self-fulfilling prophecy).

Participants were 334 undergraduates who rated children based on vignettes. The children were labeled as “sexually abused,” “mother dying,” or “normal.” One-way ANOVAs demonstrated differences in perception of internalizing symptoms and future success based on child’s history; no differences were found for externalizing.

The current results demonstrate a need for education regarding the negative impact that bias can have on the continued recovery of those who experience CSA and other trauma. While we do not minimize the traumatic nature of CSA, we hope research and educational efforts will promote resiliency and recovery so as not to create a double burden of negative expectations from those around them.

Keywords

Child sexual abuse, Internalizing symptoms, External behaviors, Future successes

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

Perceptions of Children Experiencing Trauma: Internalizing, Externalizing, and Future Success

Atrium

The current study examined differences among perceptions of children labeled either “normal,” “mother dying of cancer,” or “sexually abused” on internalizing and externalizing symptoms and future success. When individuals are negatively evaluated, they may behave consistently with that evaluation (Merton, 1948). Being labeled as sexually abused can create perceptions of the labeled person, including greater externalizing (e.g., aggression, conduct problems) and internalizing symptomatology (e.g., depression, anxiety; Briggs et al., 1995).

Children with a history of CSA can have immediate and long-term outcomes, such as internalizing and externalizing symptoms (Paolucci et al., 2001); these may diminish (Kendall-Tackett et al., 1993). In addition, children who have a parent die demonstrate increased risk of psychological problems (Kaplow et al., 2010), including lower peer attachments, less work success, and diminished education aspirations (Brent et al., 2012). However, despite these groups of children experiencing similar problematic behaviors, research demonstrates adults attribute greater negative behaviors to CSA-labeled children than those having a parent who is dying (Saathoff-Wells et al., 2005). While we do not minimize the impact of CSA, we want to reduce bias that may occur toward those who have experienced CSA (i.e., self-fulfilling prophecy).

Participants were 334 undergraduates who rated children based on vignettes. The children were labeled as “sexually abused,” “mother dying,” or “normal.” One-way ANOVAs demonstrated differences in perception of internalizing symptoms and future success based on child’s history; no differences were found for externalizing.

The current results demonstrate a need for education regarding the negative impact that bias can have on the continued recovery of those who experience CSA and other trauma. While we do not minimize the traumatic nature of CSA, we hope research and educational efforts will promote resiliency and recovery so as not to create a double burden of negative expectations from those around them.