Donna Greifer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The present study examined 100 parents' predictions of their reactions to child sexual abuse. Subjects consisted of two groups, parents with a self-reported history of sexual abuse and parents with no reported history of sexual abuse. They were assigned to one of three experimental conditions to consider a case where their own child is abused (hypothetically) by: 1) an adult relative 2) an adult non- relative 3) a spouse or partner (i.e., a case of incest). Thus, the present study examined parents' reactions, how the reactions of parents' relationship to reported perpetrator affects these reactions, and how parents' prior history of sexual abuse might interact with this variable.

Results of the present study replicated the rank order percentages of parents' reactions in the hypothetical condition of Finkelhor's 1981 Boston study. Results of the present study contradicted the findings of Russell's 1986 study regarding parents' supportiveness and perpetrator relationship. Parents in the partner/spouse condition and stranger condition more frequently endorsed guilt reactions than parents in the relative condition. Parents who “would tell the alleged offender to leave the household" had higher mean parenting scores on all four constructs of the Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI). There were no differences between parents with a self-reported history of child sexual abuse versus parents without a self-reported history of child sexual abuse in any of the analyses in this study. And finally, parents tended to choose "police" most often and "school" least often as agencies to which they would report child sexual abuse.