Theses Doctoral

Developmental outcomes in a nationally representative sample of sexually abused boys: The moderating influence of family and peer context

Elkins, Jennifer

This dissertation uses the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) to examine multi-systemic risk and resilience processes that lead to positive and negative outcomes in nationally representative sexually abused boys. This study focused on a sub-sample of 171 boys with reports of sexual abuse at the baseline. When weighting is applied this reflects a population of approximately 65,000 sexually abused boys involved in the child welfare system. The first aim of this study focuses on the impact of sexual abuse characteristics on behavioral problems, posttraumatic stress and academic achievement 1½, 3 and 5 years following the initial report of sexual abuse. The second aim of this study was to examine the moderating role of family context, as measured by cumulative family risk, across each of these outcomes. Finally, the third aim was to examine the moderating role of peer context, as measured by social skills and peer rejection, across each of these outcomes. Key findings indicated that cumulative family risk confers greater risk for internalizing problems, externalizing problems, posttraumatic stress and academic achievement; though not always in the expected directions. Social skills buffered the effect of a range of abuse characteristics on internalizing problems, externalizing problems and academic achievement but not posttraumatic stress. Peer rejection had a more prominent role in influencing internalizing outcomes and academic achievement; however this did not extend to externalizing problems, posttraumatic stress. Family and peer context moderators seemed to play a more central role at the most proximal and distal time points from the baseline report of maltreatment. This study finds a complex picture in the range and extent of the consequences associated with sexual abuse for young males. The results demonstrate the power in nurturing collaborative, multidisciplinary "healing communities" that can effectively target all levels of prevention and intervention; specifically, by incorporating the individual, family, peer/school and larger socio-cultural context. Future research should pay close attention to within group variation across socio-demographic and abuse characteristics and continue to disentangle the underlying mechanisms that contribute to adaptive and maladaptive outcomes for sexually abused boys given the multiple potential explanations for some of the unexpected findings in the present study.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
MacKenzie, Michael J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 16, 2011