Child sexual abuse: an exploratory study of professionals' beliefs and attitudes

Hicks, Cynthia J. (1995) Child sexual abuse: an exploratory study of professionals' beliefs and attitudes. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Child sexual abuse has become recognized as a serious problem in today's society. Increased awareness of abuse has led to a rise in the number of reported cases, which has put pressure on already overburdened child-serving agencies/professionals to not only respond effectively to current cases but also to find a way to prevent others from being subjected to such abuse. In an attempt to improve services to victims of abuse and to better utilize current services many communities have begun to locus efforts on developing a more coordinated agency response to the problem. Developing such a response is a very complicated process involving many factors. -- This study is aimed at exploring one factor that may influence how well this coordinated interdisciplinary effort works: the presence or absence of shared or compatible philosophical beliefs about causes of sexual abuse and other attitudes and beliefs about the issue of child sexual abuse among the various individuals or agencies involved in responding to the problem. Exploratory interviews were conducted with fifteen individuals representing eight such agencies/professions: school, church, child welfare, police, courts., shelters, mental health, and medical health. Information from these interviews was utilized in conjunction with the current literature and research to construct a survey questionnaire that was distributed to 88 social workers, 100 police officers, and 235 school personnel. The interviews were also subjected to content analysts to provide information relevant to the research questions of the study. -- The findings suggest that there is a diversity of beliefs about the causes of child sexual abuse among professionals and that many have formed eclectic views, drawing on several of the major theoretical perspectives described in the literature. Police officers, social workers and school personnel, as well as males and females, appear to hold significantly different beliefs in many areas related to victims, perpetrators, treatment, and prevention that may cause conflict and misunderstanding in effecting a coordinated response to child sexual abuse. Differences in beliefs and attitudes may be reflected in the low level of satisfaction expressed regarding the response of particular agencies as well. A perceived lack of commitment among policy makers and those who control funding to initiating an effective interdisciplinary response to this problem is the attitude that seems to be creating the greatest amount of frustration and dissatisfaction among the professionals interviewed and surveyed. -- Other results point to uncertainty or lack of knowledge concerning several causal and attitudinal components of child sexual abuse. There also appears to be some unfamiliarity with the roles and responsibilities and with the attitudes and beliefs of particular agencies, suggesting limited interaction among them. -- These findings suggest that exploration and sharing of beliefs and attitudes among all parts of the system and at all levels of the hierarchy is a necessary process in the development of a truly effective interdisciplinary response to child sexual abuse.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5000
Item ID: 5000
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 279-295.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: June 1995
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Child sexual abuse--Newfoundland and Labrador; Child welfare workers--Newfoundland and Labrador--Attitudes; Teachers--Newfoundland and Labrador--Attitudes; Police--Newfoundland and Labrador--Attitudes

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