Childhood abuse and current interpersonal conflict: the role of shame. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 362-371

Department of Psychology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA.
Child abuse & neglect (Impact Factor: 2.34). 06/2009; 33(6):362-71. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.10.003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To examine whether shame-proneness mediates the relationship between women's histories of childhood sexual abuse and their current partner and family conflict and child maltreatment. Previous research has found that women with childhood sexual abuse histories experience heightened shame and interpersonal conflict. However, research examining the relationship of shame to interpersonal conflict is lacking.
Participants were 129 mothers of children enrolled in a summer camp program for at-risk children from financially disadvantaged families. Data were collected on women's childhood abuse histories, shame in daily life, and current interpersonal conflict involving family conflict, intimate partner conflict (verbal and physical aggression), and child maltreatment.
Consistent with our hypothesis, the results of hierarchical regressions and logistic regression indicated that shame significantly mediated the association between childhood sexual abuse and interpersonal conflict. Women with sexual abuse histories reported more shame in their daily lives, which in turn was associated with higher levels of conflicts with intimate partners (self-verbal aggression and partner-physical aggression) and in the family. Shame did not mediate the relationship between mothers' histories of sexual abuse and child maltreatment.
The role of shame in the intimate partner and family conflicts of women with sexual abuse histories has not been examined. The current findings indicate that childhood sexual abuse was related to interpersonal conflicts indirectly through the emotion of shame.
These findings highlight the importance of investigating the role of shame in the interpersonal conflicts of women with histories of childhood sexual abuse. Healthcare professionals in medical and mental health settings frequently treat women with abuse histories who are involved in family and partner conflicts. Assessing and addressing the links of abused women's shame to interpersonal conflicts could be important in clinical interventions.

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    • "However, the present finding may also be illustrative of gender and methodological biases in this area. The majority of studies on child maltreatment and selfharm have been conducted on exclusively female samples (e.g., Kim et al., 2009), whereas the present study sample was predominantly male, giving some support to Gratz and Chapman's (2007) proposal that different abuse experiences are salient to different genders in terms of psychological impact. This may also explain the surprisingly limited role of childhood sexual abuse in predicting both self-harm and aggression in this study. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the role of prolonged, repeated traumatic experiences such as childhood and sectarian trauma in the development of posttraumatic aggression and self-harm. Forty-four adult participants attending therapy for complex trauma in Northern Ireland were obtained via convenience sampling. When social desirability was controlled, childhood emotional and physical neglect were significant correlates of posttraumatic hostility and history of self-harm. These relationships were mediated by alterations in self-perception (e.g., shame, guilt). Severity of sectarian-related experiences was not related to self-destructive behaviors. Moreover, none of the trauma factors were related to overt aggressive behavior. The findings have implications for understanding risk factors for posttraumatic aggression and self-harm, as well as their treatment.
    Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 01/2013; 14(1):56-68. DOI:10.1080/15299732.2012.710184 · 1.72 Impact Factor
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    • "Two studies directly examined the relation between stigmatization and dating aggression. In a cross-sectional study, women with self-reported histories of CSA were more likely to report being involved in aggressive interactions with their partners, and this association was mediated by shame experienced in everyday contexts (Kim et al., 2009). Work from the sample used in this study showed that there were concurrent simple correlations between abuse-specific stigmatization and perpetrating and being the victim of dating aggression, but prospective associations between earlier stigmatization and aggression were absent (Feiring, Simon, & Cleland, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Although experiencing childhood sexual abuse (CSA) puts youth at risk for involvement in relationship violence, research is limited on the potential pathways from CSA to subsequent dating aggression. The current study examined prospective pathways from externalizing behavior problems and stigmatization (abuse-specific shame and self-blame attributions) to anger and dating aggression. One hundred sixty youth (73% female, 69% ethnic/racial minorities) with confirmed CSA histories were interviewed at the time of abuse discovery (T1, when they were 8-15 years of age), and again 1 and 6 years later (T2 and T3). Externalizing behavior and abuse-specific stigmatization were assessed at T1 and T2. Anger and dating aggression were assessed at T3. The structural equation model findings supported the proposed relations from stigmatization following the abuse to subsequent dating aggression through anger. Only externalizing behavior at T1 was related to later dating aggression, and externalizing was not related to subsequent anger. This longitudinal research suggests that clinical interventions for victims of CSA be sensitive to the different pathways by which youth come to experience destructive conflict behavior in their romantic relationships.
    Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 11/2012; 42(3). DOI:10.1080/15374416.2012.736083 · 1.92 Impact Factor
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    • "Shame often leads to relational avoidance and guilt to relational repair. In light of the social functions of shame and guilt, their presence may underlie the devastating impact complex PTSD has on maintaining or forming familial and social relationships (e.g., Kim et al., 2009). Nathanson (1992) has noted 4 behavioral responses to shame, which form the 'compass of shame' and have relational implications . "
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: This study examined dissociation, shame, guilt and intimate relationship difficulties in those with chronic and complex PTSD. Little is known about how these symptom clusters interplay within the complex PTSD constellation. Dissociation was examined as a principle organizing construct within complex PTSD. In addition, the impact of shame, guilt and dissociation on relationship difficulties was explored. METHODS: Sixty five treatment-receiving adults attending a Northern Irish service for conflict-related trauma were assessed on measures of dissociation, state and trait shame, behavioral responses to shame, state and trait guilt, complex PTSD symptom severity and relationship difficulties. RESULTS: Ninety five percent (n=62) of participants scored above cut-off for complex PTSD. Those with clinical levels of dissociation (n=27) were significantly higher on complex PTSD symptom severity, state and trait shame, state guilt, withdrawal in response to shame and relationship preoccupation than subclinical dissociators (n=38). Dissociation and state and trait shame predicted complex PTSD. Fear of relationships was predicted by dissociation, complex PTSD and avoidance in response to shame, while complex PTSD predicted relationship anxiety and relationship depression. LIMITATIONS: The study was limited to a relatively homogeneous sample of individuals with chronic and complex PTSD drawn from a single service. CONCLUSIONS: Complex PTSD has significant consequences for intimate relationships, and dissociation makes an independent contribution to these difficulties. Dissociation also has an organizing effect on complex PTSD symptoms.
    Journal of Affective Disorders 11/2012; 147(1-3). DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2012.10.010 · 3.38 Impact Factor
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