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The experience of mothering preschool children for women who were sexually abused in childhood Loewen, Hazel Marie


The present study explored the experience of mothering preschool children for women who have histories of childhood sexual abuse. Previous research in this topic area has identified many long term negative effects of sexual abuse (Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Courtois, 1988). In particular, the negative effects on the sruvivors' relationships have been noted (Briere, 1989; Gelinas, 1983). However, research in the area of the adult survivors relationships with their children is limited and in some cases is flawed by a mother-blaming bias (Burkett, 1991). By focussing on the mother's subjective point of view, the current research attempted to describe this phenomenon and understand it more fully. An existential phenomenological research method was employed in order to attain these goals. Seven participants volunteered to take part in this research and were asked to describe their experiences while mothering their preschool children. These unstructured interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and analyzed for common themes. Mothering, for these participants, was revealed to be a complex, intense and transformative experience. The following themes were found to be present in these mothers' experiences: 1) the experience of being overwhelmed, 2) the experience of fearing for their children's safety, 3) the experience of self-doubt and uncertainty, 4) the experience of needing to withdraw, 5) a sense of needing to break with the past, 6) a sense of evolving as a mother, and, 7) a sense of child a catalyst in healing. The results of this research have several implications for future research and counselling. In particular, the healing potential of the mother-child relationship for women who were sexually abused as children is suggested by these findings.

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