Coping behaviour, posttraumatic growth and psychological well–being in women who experienced childhood sexual abuse
Walker-Williams, Hayley Janay
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The high prevalence of sexual abuse suffered by women as children is well documented, both internationally and in South Africa. The life outcomes of women who had experienced childhood sexual abuse are generally reported as adverse, yet some of these survivors manage to overcome the abusive relationship and experience positive changes in themselves and their lives. Emerging trauma literature thus supports a philosophical shift from a pathogenic to a autogenic paradigm in which the focus is on positive and adaptive post trauma outcomes. Previous trauma models, which were based on a pathogenic model, are now shifting to a positive psychology trend by incorporating a salutary component, which includes a spiritual and existential dimension as well as an area of potential emerging growth. Information on the constructive coping behaviours, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being of women who had experienced childhood sexual abuse can lead to the formulation of guidelines with strategies for an intervention programme that can facilitate and enhance coping, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This research investigated the coping behaviours, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being of women who had experienced childhood sexual abuse. The research was carried out in South Africa in the greater Gauteng Province and surrounding areas, with women who had experienced sexual abuse in childhood. A mixed method research design was used in which: the first phase was quantitative research conducted with validated psychometric instruments measuring coping behaviour, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being. These instruments were the COPE (Coping Self-efficacy Scale), the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, the Mental Health Continuum, Rosenberg’s Self-esteem Scale and the General Health Questionnaire. The second phase was of a qualitative nature, and explored the stories and experiences of women identified as coping constructively, manifesting posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being, by using semi-structured interviews. Lastly, the data obtained was used to formulate guidelines with specific strategies, which can be used by helping professionals in a group context to facilitate and enhance constructive coping, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The results of this research were as follows: prevalence of constructive coping, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being was determined, and indicated that 58% of participants manifested constructive coping, 60% manifested posttraumatic growth and 42% manifested psychological well-being. Semi-structured interviews conducted with the women scoring in the upper range of coping constructively, growing after the trauma and emerging psychologically well were transcribed and analysed by means of interpretative phenomenological analysis, and the following broad themes emerged: psycho-socio spiritual resources, the healing process and positive strengths. These themes and sub-themes produced data which could be used in the formulation of guidelines with strategies for an intervention programme aimed at enhancing and facilitating constructive coping, posttraumatic growth and psychological well-being thereby improving the therapeutic services available to childhood sexual abuse survivors. Finally the study was evaluated and conclusions and recommendations were made.
- Humanities