Dissociation And Posttraumatic Stress Following Sexual Abuse: The Moderating Effect Of Caregiver Support
Trauma literature demonstrates that sexually abused youth are at risk for psychopathology and adjustment problems, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD; e.g. Yancey, & Hansen, 2010). Dissociation is a response to a traumatic event that may be adaptive within the traumatic experience; however, persistent trauma-specific dissociation can impair affect regulation and cognitive skills and increase risk for PTSD (e.g. Kaplow, Dodge, Amaya-Jackson, & Saxe, 2005). The current study aimed to confirm the relationship between dissociation and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and examine the potential moderating effect of abuse-related support from the non-offending caregiver, the single best predictor of resilience after sexual abuse. The study sample included 52 sexually abused youth ages 8-16 years (M = 12.94, SD = 2.18) who were predominantly female (85%) and African American (62%). It was hypothesized that (1) dissociation during a forensic interview would predict PTSS and (2) low levels of caregiver support would strengthen the magnitude of the association between dissociation and PTSS compared to high levels of caregiver support. Findings confirmed the first hypothesis such that participants who reported more symptoms of dissociation in response to a forensic interview were at higher risk for PTSS. However, caregiver support did not moderate this relationship. Exploratory analyses examining the differential impact of caregiver support and caregiver blame also revealed no moderating effects. However, youth of caregivers reporting more blame of the child and/or less blame of the perpetrator were at higher risk of PTSS. These results provide support for guidelines recommending forensic interviewers include screening for dissociation and PTSS, as well as caregiver responses to disclosure. Importantly, the caregiver's attributions of blame may be relevant points of intervention when targeting resilience among sexually abused youth.