Fathers with a history of child sexual abuse: new findings for policy and practice

Children Families Sex differences Crime Child sexual abuse Australia

This paper outlines the key findings of the limited research that has investigated how a history of child sexual abuse can influence men's perceptions and experience of fatherhood, and also discusses some of the reasons why this important topic remains largely excluded from public, academic and policy discourses.

The trauma of child sexual abuse can manifest in many areas of victim/survivors' lives, including their attitudes towards parenting and their relationships with their children.  This paper will be most useful to practitioners and policy-makers who work to support men, parents and/or families.

Key findings:

  • Many men who were sexually abused as children face unique experiences and difficulties in connection with fatherhood, including fears that they may abuse their own children, problems with physical contact or displays of affection with their children, and overprotectiveness of their children.
  • The issue of child sexual abuse impacting on men's perceptions and experience of fatherhood remains largely excluded from both popular and professional discourses.
  • The first step towards improving policy and service responses to these male victim/survivors is to raise awareness of the difficulties they may face with regard to fatherhood.
  • As there are strong disincentives to male victim/survivors themselves revealing their difficulties with fatherhood, it is likely that service providers, practitioners and policy-makers will need to play a leadership role in promoting awareness of this issue.

This is an abridged version of "Child Sexual Abuse, Masculinity and Fatherhood" (Price-Robertson, in press), accepted for publication in the Journal of Family Studies Volume 18/2-3 (December 2012) special issue on Fatherhood in the Early 21st Century (ISBN 978-1-921980-02-2). Reproduced with permission.

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