Childhood sexual abuse history and role reversal in parenting

Pamela C. Alexander, Laureen O'Donnell Teti, Catherine L. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Objective: This study explored the main and interactive effects of sexual abuse history and relationship satisfaction on self-reported parenting, controlling for histories of physical abuse and parental alcoholism. Method: The community sample consisted of 90 mothers of 5- to 8- year-old children. The sample was limited to those mothers currently in an intimate relationship, 19 of whom reported a history of childhood sexual abuse. Participants completed the Child Behavior Checklist, the Parenting Stress Inventory, the Family Cohesion Index, and questions assessing parent- child role reversal, history of abuse and parental alcoholism, and current relationship satisfaction. Results: Results of analyses and multivariate analyses of covariance suggested that sexual abuse survivors with an unsatisfactory intimate relationship were more likely than either sexual abuse survivors with a satisfactory relationship or nonabused women to endorse items on a questionnaire of role reversal (defined as emotional overdependence upon one's child). Role reversal was not significantly predicted by histories of physical abuse or parental alcoholism or child's gender. While parenting stress was inversely predicted by the significant main effect of relationship satisfaction, neither parenting stress nor child behavior problems were predicted by the main effect of sexual abuse history or by the interaction between sexual abuse history and relationship satisfaction. Conclusions: These results suggest the unique relevance of sexual abuse history and relationship satisfaction in the prediction of a specific type of parent-child role reversal - namely, a mother's emotional overdependence upon her child. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-838
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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