Type of Document Dissertation Author Nalavany, Blace Arthur Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-03212006-110414 Title The Impact of Preadoptive Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adopted Boys Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Social Work, College of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Scott D. Ryan Committee Chair Jim Hinterlong Committee Member Joyce Carbonell Committee Member Neil Abell Committee Member Keywords
- Externalizing Behavior
- Adoption Adjustment
- Preadoption Services
- Male Gender Role Socialization
- Postadoption Services
- Sexual Abuse Of Boys
Date of Defense 2006-02-17 Availability unrestricted AbstractAdoption has changed dramatically in the United States. Recent federal legislation, such as the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, has opened the doorway to an unprecedented increase in the number of foster children eligible for adoption. This has subsequently increased the number of studies on adopted children with special needs (Reilly & Platz, 2003; Smith & Howard, 1999). This research has been dominated by studies whereby adopted children with special needs—which includes but is not limited to those children with histories of abuse and neglect, medical conditions, minority status, older placement age, sibling placement, and learning challenges—are lumped together as one group (Haugaard, 1998; Simmel, 2002). Missing from these studies is a clear understanding of which subgroups are more at risk for unsuccessful adoption outcomes, which variables contribute to adoption risk, and which variables can potentially enhance adoption outcomes. As an unintended consequence of this trend, preadoption and postadoption services are informed by an incomplete knowledge base from which to develop the most effective interventions. The purpose of this study was to address this gap in the adoption research by exploring preadoptive sexual abuse in general and the impact of preadoptive sexual abuse on adopted boys in particular. In doing so, this study also responded to Erich and Leung’s (2002) caveat that the “extent of empirical research involving postadoptive placement of those children with a history of sexual or physical abuse remains grossly insufficient” (p. 1046).
This study was based on the first wave of data collected through the Florida Adoptive Families study, a longitudinal look at characteristics that allow placements with adoptive families to be permanent, successful, and beneficial for the children and families. This study was guided by the research on preadoptive sexual abuse, the sexual abuse of boys research, the Sexual Abuse of Males model (Spiegel, 2003), and the concept of Restrictive Emotionality described in gender role conflict theory (O’Neil, 1981; O’Neil, Good, & Holmes, 1995; O’Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986). This study had two purposes. The first purpose described, based on parental report, the extent of preadoptive emotional and behavioral needs, postadoptive externalizing behavior problems, and placement risk among approximately
116 adopted boys with preadoptive histories of sexual abuse compared to approximately 287
non–sexually abused adopted boys between the ages 6 and 18. The second and primary purpose of this study explored the moderating and mediating effects of the parents’ perceptions of the boys’ strengths in Emotional Exchange (i.e., the ability to express feelings, identify feelings, and reciprocate feelings) and Emotional and Behavioral Regulation on Preadoptive Adjustment and Externalizing Behavior. Multiple imputation and generalized estimated equations were used to enhance the confidence in the validity of the statistical results.
A number of compelling findings were revealed. Adopted boys with preadoptive histories of sexual abuse presented with higher levels of Preadoptive Adjustment needs and Externalizing Behavior compared to their non–sexually abused, adopted male peers. As a preadoptive risk factor, adopted boys with preadoptive sexual abuse histories were at greater adoption placement risk compared to adopted boys with physical abuse histories, neglect and/or abandonment histories, or no histories of abuse. The moderating analyses indicated that adopted boys with sexual abuse histories who present with high levels of Preadoptive Adjustment needs and lower levels of Emotional Exchange (i.e., deficits in expressing feelings, identifying feelings, and reciprocating feelings) are at risk for escalated Externalizing Behavior. In addition, Emotional Exchange and Emotional and Behavioral Regulation partially mediated the association between Preadoptive Adjustment needs and Externalizing Behavior. In other words, adopted boys with sexual abuse histories who had elevated levels of Preadoptive Adjustment needs displayed fewer Externalizing Behavior problems, partly as a result of their ability to identify feelings, express feelings, reciprocate feelings, and regulate emotions and behaviors.
Although the results suggest that adoptive parents may be overcome with the complex array of adoption adjustment problems experienced by boys with sexual abuse histories, the findings also suggest a pathway to hope for these families. The implications of how preadoption and postadoption services could help support these families are discussed. Adoptive parents may hold the key to helping to facilitate the Emotional Exchange and Emotional and Behavioral Regulation abilities of their sons, heal the wounds of sexual abuse, and ultimately foster successful placement experiences.
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