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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Creating a sense of "Hardiness"

An interesting piece of research has been published this month in the American Journal of Family Therapy. It looks at men and women in relationships who are also survivors of abuse in childhood. The work by  Sandberg, Feldhousen and Busby had a sample of 338 females and 296 males, which is a robust size.

they defined hardiness as a sense of control or influence in one's life especially when faced with adversity. They also acknowledge that previous research has identified that abuse in a person's life can have long term implications. Depression and substance abuse can also serve to negatively moderate the influence of abuse in childhood and, in term, negatively impact parenting. They also note that the quality of the adult relationship between the parenting partners can negatively or positively mediate. In other words, a strong and positive husband and wife relationship can reduce the negative impact of childhood abuse on the survivor's parenting behaviours. This, of course, adds to the building literature that helps us to see that not all people abused in childhood will necessarily go on to be abusive in adulthood.

The implications for practice in child protection are valuable. Building self efficacy and resiliency in a parent increases their hardiness. This, in turn, improves the way in which they can engage parenting. Further, increasing the quality of the couple's relationship will increase the hardiness and again benefit parenting.

It is not a surprise then that it is also important to address issues such as depression in parents as this can impact the hardiness of the individual. This too, then, will have a probable negative impact on parenting. Depression and hardiness, the authors state, have a bi-drectional relationship.

They also noted some gender differences which may help when working with survivors of childhood abuse. Females will benefit from a strengths based approach as opposed to one with a problem base. When working with men, they note:

 "When working with men, clinicians should note that these results suggest childhood trauma, particularly sexual abuse, is correlated with feeling depressed and a weakened sense of hardiness. Clinicians must recognize that overtly addressing this type of abuse may be very difficult for men struggling against gender stereotypes, and as a result patience and persistence will likely be needed" (p.88).

This is valuable research and helps us to see how we can create strength in parents who have been the victims of abuse in their own childhoods.

Reference: Sandberg, J.S., Feldhousen, E.B. & Busby, D.M. (2011). The impact of childhood abuse on women's and men's perceived parenting: Implications for practice. American Journal of Family Therapy, 40 (1), 74-91. DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2011.566827

1 comment:

  1. My sense is that people who have overcome abuse can often not onlyavoid being abusive themselves but also may become particularly skilled at preventing abuse

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