For child survivors of sexual abuse, the decision to disclose is complex and fraught with uncertainty. Even when sexual abuse is disclosed and an investigation ensues, children don't always disclose their experiences readily or with much detail. While most research has focused on understanding factors related to initial disclosure, little research has examined the factors related to active or tentative disclosure in the context of forensic interviews, and its relationship with family support, and outcomes after disclosure. Understanding the factors related to an active or tentative disclosure is important in since the child's ability to provide details of the abuse, and to appear credible, may influence short-term and long-term outcomes. The purpose of this research was to understand whether child characteristics, abuse specific factors, and the level of family support significantly predict both how children disclose sexual abuse during forensic interviews and outcomes in child protection cases. The Process of Disclosure Model and Social Exchange Theory provided frameworks to examine significant factors that may influence children when they consider how to disclose abuse within a forensic interview. Using a secondary data analysis of existing records, this quantitative study examined factors related to active and tentative disclosure of child sexual abuse during forensic interviews. Content analysis was used to code 196 previously conducted video-taped forensic interviews and corresponding case files. Cases were then matched to corresponding child protection cases to examine service and family living situation outcomes. Using logistic regression, findings indicate that older children, Multi/Bi-racial children, delayed and witnessed initial disclosure, abuse by an adult, and children with unsupportive families were significantly more likely to tentatively disclose. Children were significantly more likely to receive counseling and referrals for basic needs services if they had experienced more severe abuse and had unsupportive families. Children were more likely to be removed from the home if they were African American or Multi/Bi-racial, had an unsupportive family, and who were related to the perpetrator. Children were also significantly more likely to have a safety plan implemented in the home if they were Hispanic, experienced more severe abuse, and were related to the perpetrator. Implications for child welfare policy and social work practice include a need to better understand tentative disclosure, more integration of cultural competency into training for forensic interviewers and child welfare workers, and an emphasis on using strengths based practice to engage non-offending family members.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2014. Major: Social Work. Advisor: Elizabeth Bradford Lightfoot. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 213 pages, appendix A.
Anderson, Gwendolyn Davina.
How do contextual factors and family support influence disclosure of child sexual abuse during forensic interviews and service outcomes in child protection cases?.
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