While protective factors associated with resilience have been well- documented (e.g., initiative, self-regulation, attachment), less is known about their comparative levels in children exposed and not exposed to trauma.
Given the relevance of examining this issue to enhance our understanding of mechanisms underlying resilience, the objectives of this study were to: 1) examine and compare individual protective factors in sexually abused and non-abused preschoolers over the course of one year; and 2) investigate the impact of sexual abuse (SA) characteristics on protective factors.
Sexually abused (n = 109) and non-abused preschoolers (n = 78) (M = 4.38; SD = 0.95) were recruited at Time 1 (T1), and assessed in a follow-up one year later (T2; n = 56 abused and n = 74 non-abused children). Parents completed the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (LeBuffe & Naglieri, 1999) at T1 and T2, to assess their levels of Initiative, Self-Control, and Attachment. SA characteristics were coded from clinical files (History of Victimization Form; Wolfe, Wolfe, Gentile, & Boudreau, 1987).
Abused children were more likely than non-abused children to present low levels of Initiative, Self-Regulation, and Attachment both at T1 and T2. Analyses indicated that while levels of protective factors increased over the year, abused children still presented lower scores at T2 compared to non-abused children. Severity of abuse tended to be positively related to Initiative, duration of the abuse was negatively associated with Self-Control at T2, and intra-familial abuse tended to be associated with higher levels of Attachment at T2.
While the presence of protective factors is deemed essential to achieving positive psychosocial adaptation following SA, preschool victims presented lower levels of protective factors at T1 and T2. This should be accounted for in interventions that aim at fostering resilience in young children.
Langevin, R. and Hébert, M. (2016). Evolution over a year of individual protection factors in preschool victims of sexual abuse. International of Child and Adolescent Resilience, 4(1).
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