Parenting stress in incest survivor mothers of preschool children

Cleary M. Donovan (1990)

Incest arises from complex individual, interpersonal and societal factors and leads to serious long-term effects in the victims, including problems with interpersonal relationships and parenting. Although there is clinical evidence that incest survivor/mothers demonstrate parenting difficulties, there are no studies that offer clear empirical evidence of their parenting stress. In this study, the degree and types of parenting stress among mothers who have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcohol abuse or domestic violence within their families of origin were measured by the Parenting Stress Index and compared with non-abused mothers. Analysis of the data included comparison of the mean scores of subgroups within the sample with that of the norms of the Parenting Stress Index, and a series of MANOVA, comparing the 16 scores of the Parenting Stress Index of various subgroups of the sample, such as incest survivor/mothers. Almost 75% of the sample reported at least one form of abuse; of these, over half reported multiple abuse. The Parenting Stress Index Scores were significantly higher for abused mothers than non-abused mothers, and significantly higher for single mothers than married mothers. The scores for women in the process of recovering sexual abuse memories were the highest in the sample. A discussion of the results and suggestions for further research are offered.