Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Cheryl A. Terrance


Research findings suggest that children born to mothers who were sexually abused as a child are at an increased risk of becoming a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Due to the correlational nature of this research, causal links establishing maternal blame are tenuous. Despite this, many of the theories attempting to explain this phenomenon place blame upon the mother. To this end, the current study examined the impact of mother's personal history of child sexual abuse had on the amount of blame she received upon her daughter's disclosure of abuse, while also varying the victim-perpetrator relationship. Participants read one of six scenarios that varied the mother's history of child sexual abuse (present vs. absent) and the victim-perpetrator relationship (father vs. family friend vs. stranger) and indicated the degree to which various actors are to blame for the occurrence of the abuse. While the mother's personal history had no impact on perceived culpability, participants generally agreed that a mother's personal history of child sexual abuse should make her vigilant. Overall, nonoffending parents were not viewed as criminally responsible for the sexual abuse of their child. Consistent with previous research, results indicate that child sexual abuse perpetrated by a father is perceived to be more severe. Implications are discussed.