Kim M. Anderson
University of Missouri
Kim M. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW, is an associate professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri and a licensed clinical social worker. Dr. Anderson is the author of Enhancing Resilience in Survivors of Family Violence, a book informed by her research on, teaching about, and practice in the field of family violence. It provides empirical findings and conceptual insights for helping professionals to assist people affected by violence and oppression to cultivate their strengths and resilient capacities so they may reclaim lives of potential, possibility, and promise. Dr. Anderson has also written several journal articles and book chapters and presented at several national and international conferences on the subject of resilience. Dr. Anderson’s scholarship bridges gaps between theory and practice by offering conceptual frameworks that captures the interplay of trauma and resilience for survivors of family violence and mental health practitioners. Additionally, Dr. Anderson leads the Trauma-Responsive Institute (TRI), a consulting firm for human service organizations interested in developing and delivering trauma-responsive solutions to ease the suffering and mental anguish of their clientele affected by trauma.
This quantitative study examined 68 daughters of abused women to explore childhood risk and protective factors and their relationship to adult levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and resilience. Because of its violent and often prolonged nature, children exposed to their mothers’ intimate partner violence presents stressors that often go beyond the adaptive capacities of most children and may produce long-lasting effects (Meltzer, Doos, Vostanis, Ford, & Goodman, 2009). The life trajectories of adults who witnessed inter-parental violence during childhood are receiving more attention and it is generally accepted that children’s short- and long-term development is impacted by such exposure (Geffener, Igleman, & Zellner, 2003). Although research is beginning to explore the long-term effects (e.g., psychopathology, intergenerational transmission of violence) of childhood exposure to domestic violence, no study has assessed both resilience and posttraumatic stress disorder in adult children. This study, therefore, set out to further explore adult daughters’ adaptation in the aftermath of childhood exposure to domestic violence. Standardized measures of psychosocial functioning were used to identify levels of PTSD and resilience (PTSD Checklist Version for Civilians, Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale). Inquiry also addressed the context of witnessing domestic violence (i.e., duration, type of violence, abuser’s use of weapons, and the child’s relationship to the abuser). Additional risk factors included experiences of child abuse and exposure to parental mental health problems, substance abuse, and unemployment. Protective factors were comprised of available childhood resources including access to domestic violence services, mental health counseling, and police intervention. Participants were recruited through newspaper advertisements in a Midwestern rural community. Convenience sampling criteria included: women who were 21 or older and did not reside in their parents’ home, had experienced (during their childhood) their mothers being battered by intimate male partners, and were able to differentiate between exposure to their mothers’ abuse and any violence directed personally at them. Of 120 inquires, 111 met sampling criteria and 19 of those declined to participate. Ninety-two questionnaire packets were distributed, of which 68 were completed and returned along with the participants’ consent forms. Participants were females who ranged in age from 19 to 64 years old (M=37, SD=11.5). The majority (75%) were European-American. Batterers included primarily fathers (n=57) and stepfathers (n=17) while ten reported their mothers had multiple abusive partners. Thirty-seven participants (54%) were exposed to the abuser’s violence for 11 or more years with 10 (14.7%) reporting that the violence was 20 or more years. Additionally, 53 participants (63.1%) reported that the batterer also abused them. Higher resilience scores were significantly correlated with lower levels of PTSD (r=-.49, p< .000). Independent sample t-tests indicated significant differences in PTSD levels between participants with and without police involvement during childhood (M=43.78, 33.59, respectively; t= -2.90, p=0.005). There were also significant differences in PTSD levels between participants who reported their mothers had mental health problems with those who did not (M=46.12, 35.03, respectively; t=-2.95, p=0.005). Additionally, participants whose mothers had full-time steady employment had significantly higher resilience than those with mothers who did not work or worked inconsistently (M=74.27, 61.62, respectively; t=2.91, p<0.01). This study’s implications include advancing ecological theory and conceptual insights regarding childhood risk and protective factors and their association to adult psychological distress and hardiness for adult children of battered women. Thus, helping professionals may gain a more comprehensive understanding of long-term recovery from childhood exposure to domestic violence. Additionally, the findings suggest that abused mothers who were employed full-time had a positive influence on their daughters’ coping and resilience. Consequently, helping victimized women secure resources, particularly employment, (along with obtaining safety) is important as it benefits her and in the long run may contribute to her children’s positive adjustment.