DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.06.024">

Caregivers’ abuse stigmatization and their views of mental health treatment following child sexual abuse

Document Type


Publication Date



Social Work

Publication Title

Child Abuse and Neglect


Many families do not utilize mental health services after the discovery of child sexual abuse (CSA), even when trauma-focused treatments are offered at low or no cost. Non-offending caregivers frequently serve as gatekeepers to youths’ treatment, and their reactions to CSA may figure into decisions about treatment engagement. The current study examined caregivers’ abuse stigmatization (i.e., self-blame and shame about their children's CSA) and associations with two factors predictive of treatment engagement (motivation, obstacles). Participants were recruited from a Child Advocacy Center where they received forensic interviews and were offered services following CSA discovery. Participating caregiver-child dyads included 52 non-offending caregivers (83% biological parents) and their children (69% girls; Mage = 10.94, SDage = 2.62). Caregiver abuse stigmatization was associated with higher motivation for treatment but also more obstacles to treatment. Further, abuse stigmatization moderated associations between children's PTSD symptoms and perceived obstacles to treatment. Among caregivers experiencing high abuse stigmatization, greater child PTSD symptoms were associated with more obstacles to treatment. Among caregivers experiencing low stigmatization, child PTSD was either associated with fewer treatment obstacles or was unrelated to treatment obstacles. Results highlight the potential significance of reducing parents' abuse stigmatization for increasing mental health service utilization following CSA discovery, especially for more symptomatic youth.

Link to Published Version

DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.06.024