The effects of role-taking ability and self-concept on attributions of responsibility and adjustment of sexually abused and nonabused girls

Alison Strasser Winston, Fordham University


The present study investigated differences in the impact of attributions of responsibility on young (5 to 10 1/2 years old) sexual abuse victims' adjustment to the abuse within the frameworks of perspective taking and self-concept, because the literature suggested that the relationships among these constructs may be meaningful. The broad goal of the study was to better understand the variables predicting consequences of child sexual abuse in a developmental framework, in order to integrate these variables into the treatment of child victims. Thirty-three sexually abused girls, referred from the Children's Hospital Abuse Management Program at Children's Hospital at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and 33 nonabused girls recruited from parochial schools selected for their demographic comparability to the sexually abused sample, participated in the research. Child participants were presented with several instruments intended to assess their perspective-taking ability, self-concept, and attributional style. Participants' parents completed questionnaires regarding their daughters' behavior. The abused and nonabused samples were significantly different in terms of ethnicity (a significantly larger proportion of abused girls came from ethnic minority backgrounds) and in terms of family composition (a larger percentage of the nonabused sample came from an intact family system). Perspective-taking ability was significantly, positively correlated with age. There were no significant differences between the two groups on any of the dependent variables, contrary to what had been hypothesized. However, multiple regression analyses indicated that abuse condition contributed significantly to variability in scores on the perspective-taking measure and on, a measure of interpersonal trust. Perspective taking was not positively correlated with self-concept, as hypothesized, and was positively, rather than negatively, correlated with a self-blaming attributional style. Several limitations of the study were noted: as a result of practical obstacles in collecting data, the design of the study was modified and fewer subjects were included in the research; the abused and nonabused samples were not demographically equivalent; and the measures used in the study were normed on populations highly dissimilar from the samples included in the present study. However, a large amount of data was collected from primarily ethnic minority child victims of sexual abuse, unlike the samples used in previous research.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Behaviorial sciences|Personality

Recommended Citation

Strasser Winston, Alison, "The effects of role-taking ability and self-concept on attributions of responsibility and adjustment of sexually abused and nonabused girls" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9917503.