The Association Between Foster Parent Knowledge of Child Sexual Trauma, Parental Self-Efficacy, and Retainment of Sexually Abused Foster Children
Smith, Brent Warren
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Children who have been victims of sexual abuse often exhibit a wide range of negative behavioral, emotional, and psychological outcomes. Children involved in the foster care system are particularly likely to have experienced sexual abuse, and are also at a greater risk for subsequent pathology. While sexual trauma is relatively common in foster child populations, little is known about foster parents’ knowledge of sexual trauma and its effects on children. Furthermore, little research has been done regarding foster parents’ perceptions of sexually abused children, nor on foster parents’ willingness to foster such children. These variables are particularly salient given the important role that parents and families play in moderating the effects of child sexual abuse (CSA). Two final variables likely relevant to the parenting of sexually abused foster children are parental sense of competence and parental self-efficacy. While parental sense of competence and self-efficacy have been linked to positive parenting and child outcomes in the general population, little research has examined these constructs as they relate to foster children, particularly sexually abused foster children. This study attempted to examine foster parents’ (a) knowledge of childhood sexual abuse effects and treatment options, and (b) sense of competence and self-efficacy as they relate to (c) the willingness and likelihood of retainment of a foster child by the foster parent. Three hypotheses were tested: (1) Increased foster parent knowledge of the effects of CSA will predict both increased willingness and predicted likelihood of fostering and retaining a sexually abused child, and this relationship will be moderated by parental competence/self-efficacy; (2) Increased foster parent knowledge of treatment options for CSA will predict both increased willingness and predicted likelihood of fostering and retaining a sexually abused child, and this relationship will be moderated by foster parents’ likelihood of seeking treatment; and (3) Increased foster parent likelihood of seeking treatment will predict both increased willingness and predicted likelihood of fostering and retaining a sexually abused child, and this relationship will be moderated by foster parents' sense of competence and self-efficacy. The participants in this study were 201 current or former foster parents who had fostered at least one child in the United States. Participants were recruited online and through local agencies and fostering support groups. All participants completed the following measures: the Parenting Sense of Competence (PSOC), the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Parental Efﬁcacy (MSPPE), the Attitudes and Knowledge of Sexual Trauma Outcomes (AKOSTO), the Knowledge of Treatment (KoT), the Likelihood of Seeking Treatment (LST), the Willingness and Likelihood to Retain (WiLi-R), and a demographic form. Confirmatory factor analyses were used to assess construct validity of the AKOSTO, KoT, LST, and WiLi-R, as these measures were developed specifically for this study. Measures were then revised and re-analyzed in order to ensure good model fit. Moderate to good fit was obtained for each measure except the LST. The data were then analyzed using a series of moderated multiple regressions to test the three research hypotheses. Direct effects were found for parental sense of competence and for knowledge of effective treatment options for negative outcomes of child sexual abuse. No moderation effects were detected. Results suggest that parental sense of competence and knowledge of treatment play a significant role in a foster parent’s reported willingness to foster a child with a history of sexual abuse. Future research should focus on replicating results and on developing interventions to increase foster parents’ competence, particularly in working with children who have experienced sexual abuse.