Psychological functioning of nonoffending caregivers: The roles of attachment, parenting competence, child psychological functioning, and goodness-of-fit

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Blaine Fowers - Committee Chair


Maternal and paternal, nonoffending caregivers parenting children survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) experience a period of psychological adjustment in response to their child's abuse. High levels of psychological distress among nonoffending caregivers (NOC) may interfere with their ability to attend to their children's healing processes because their focus may shift to stabilizing themselves first. The research literature is mixed with respect to the presence and degree of nonoffending caregivers' experience of brief or chronic psychological distress related to their child's sexual abuse, with a greater focus on maternal than paternal psychological distress. This study explored the role of NOC characteristics (attachment style and parenting competence), child characteristics (caregiver perception of parent-child goodness-of-fit and child psychological functioning), and caregiver social support in predicting NOC psychological functioning post-CSA disclosure. Attachment and ecological theories are applied to expand the understanding of NOC psychological functioning to include relational and social systemic influences.In hierarchical regression analysis, with NOC gender and NOC sexual abase history as control variables, NOC sexual abuse history and NOC characteristics were statistically significant predictors of NOC psychological distress. The expected interaction between NOC characteristics and child characteristics was not confirmed as a significant predictor of NOC psychological functioning. Nor were child characteristics or social support confirmed as significant predictors of NOC psychological functioning. Post hoc analyses also generated noteworthy findings for NOC attachment security, perpetrator relationship to NOC, and NOC social support. NOC attachment security was found to be a moderator of the relationship between parenting competence and psychological functioning. Perpetrator relationship to NOC moderated the relationship between attachment security and psychological functioning. Social support did not mediate or moderate the relationship between child characteristics and NOC psychological functioning.The results can be used to devise appropriate interventions account for the influences of attachment, parenting competence, child psychological functioning, caregiver-child goodness-of-fit, and social support on the psychological functioning of NOC. This increased awareness and targeted interventions can guide clinicians to better assess the needs and system influences of NOC, ultimately facilitating their healing processes. Attachment and ecological theory integration in clinical research can expand practitioners' perspectives to adjust for individual differences.


Psychology, Clinical

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