Mothers with a history of childhood sexual abuse: key issues for child protection practice and policy

Sex crimes Children Child sexual abuse Child protection Australia

This publication reviews the literature examining the impacts of a history of maternal childhood sexual abuse on parenting capacities and the impacts on children.

It specifically examines the domains of mental health, intimate partner violence, substance abuse and homelessness and the overlap with a history of maternal childhood sexual abuse, highlighting the difficulties faced by these women when engaging with statutory and welfare agencies.

Key messages:

  • Research highlights that a maternal history of childhood sexual abuse often underpins many of the complex issues that lead to compromised parenting capacities.
  • The complex interplay of these issues in known as complex trauma, and is understood to have an impact on the capacity to provide empathic and consistent care, which inevitably impairs the mother-child relationship.
  • Victim/survivors of childhood sexual abuse who become shared clients of child statutory agencies and allied health service providers are often difficult to engage in services due to issues of trust and safety.
  • By expanding our understanding of the indirect effects of childhood sexual abuse in areas such as mental health, intimate partner violence, substance abuse and homelessness, we can become more informed of the stressors that affect some women's parenting capacities and create service responses that enhance their own lives and the lives of their children.
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