Profile of children investigated for sexual abuse: Association with psychopathology symptoms and services

School of Social Work, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (Impact Factor: 1.5). 11/2006; 76(4):468-81. DOI: 10.1037/0002-9432.76.4.468
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Sexually abused children may have poor mental health because of their victimization as well as preexisting or co-occurring family problems. However, few studies consider psychopathology in relation to both abuse and other family experiences. This study uses data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) to create latent subgroups of 553 children investigated for sexual abuse. The study investigates children's psychological symptoms and child welfare service (CWS) patterns to understand how children's needs relate to mental health services. Analyses were conducted by child age: 3-7, 8-11, and 12-14. Factor mixture modeling and regression analyses were used. Results show meaningful subgroups of children that relate to different symptom patterns. Among 3- to 7-year-olds, behavioral symptoms are associated with caregiver domestic violence and mental illness. Among 8- to 11-year-olds, depressive symptoms are associated with severe abuse and multiple family problems, whereas posttraumatic stress is associated with chronic, unresolved abuse. Although many children received mental health services, services are not well matched to children's needs--the substantiation status of the abuse explains services. Implications for CWS and mental health services are discussed.

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