Association of maternal psychological functioning to pathology in child sexual abuse victims

Barbara J. Leonard, Wendy L. Hellerstedt, Lavohn Josten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to assess the psychological impact of disclosure of sexual abuse on child victims and their mothers and evaluate whether there was an association between maternal distress and report of child behavioral and psychological problems. Data on child psychological and behavioral problems and maternal psychological functioning were collected at the time of disclosure of sexual abuse and 9 months later for 49 subjects. The study showed the heterogeneity and severity of problems among victims and their mothers at baseline. These problems persisted almost a year later. Maternal distress was strongly correlated with the mothers' assessments of child functioning and was less strongly associated with the children's own assessments of their status. Because the mothers in this study reported high levels of persistent distress for themselves and their children, comprehensive intervention with the family may be an efficient route to child recovery after disclosure of sexual abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-601
Number of pages15
JournalIssues in Mental Health Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received 16 December 1996; accepted 15 May 1997. This research was supported by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children’s Justice Act Project, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Address correspondence to Wendy L. Hellerstedt, MPH, PhD, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Maternal and Child Health Program, 420 SE Delaware Street, Box 97 Mayo, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail:


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