Survivors of intrafamilial childhood sexual abuse: experiences of disclosure, family and parenting

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McMahon, Rachel
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University College Cork
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Systematic Review Abstract: Intrafamilial childhood sexual abuse (IFCSA) is a global phenomenon associated with a multitude of negative outcomes in adulthood, including parenting difficulties. This qualitative meta-synthesis explored how individuals who have experienced IFCSA experience parenthood. A systematic search of the literature was conducted, followed by purposeful sampling of eligible studies. The findings from 18 qualitative studies were synthesised using meta-ethnography. Six themes were generated: being a good parent; the emotional capacity for parenting; barriers and facilitators; a lens of trauma; continuing the legacy; and an opportunity to heal. The worthwhile struggle to be a good parent emerged as an overarching theme, and captures the sense that survivors of IFCSA have strong desires to be good parents and make determined efforts to do so, but face difficulties in parenting that many others do not. Findings are discussed in relation to theory, research and practice. Empirical Study Abstract: Background: Intrafamilial childhood sexual abuse (IFCSA) is a particularly damaging form of sexual abuse. Disclosure of IFCSA is frequently delayed until adulthood, yet there is a scarcity of research exploring adult disclosures of IFCSA within the family. Objective: To explore how survivors of IFCSA experience disclosing their abuse to their families in adulthood. Participants and Setting: Six female survivors of IFCSA, ranging in age from 30 to 62, recruited from a counselling service in Ireland. Methods: Data was collected via semi-structured interviews focusing on disclosure experiences, reactions to disclosures, and family relationships. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results: Three overarching themes emerged from the data. Participants experienced a sense of tension between individualism and collectivism that manifested across disclosure decisions and perceptions of family. Reactions, positive or negative, had a powerful impact on survivors and were perceived as differentially impacting recovery from abuse. Existing family relationships and dynamics were experienced as influencing reactions, and reactions were seen as serving to maintain existing dynamics. Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance and enduring nature of pre-disclosure family dynamics, the importance of reactions for recovery, and the sense of conflict experienced in disclosing IFCSA to one’s family.
Intrafamilial childhood sexual abuse , Childhood sexual abuse , Parenting , Systematic review , Meta-synthesis , Disclosure , Social reactions , Family relationships , Qualitative , Interpretative phenomenological analysis
McMahon, R. 2021. Survivors of intrafamilial childhood sexual abuse: experiences of disclosure, family and parenting. DClinPsych Thesis, University College Cork.
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