Creative Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Challenges and Dilemmas

By Sue Richardson; Heather Bacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Attachment, trauma
and child sexual abuse
An exploration

Heather Bacon

Attachment has become the mainstay of my clinical practice and this chapter reflects my continuing search for ways to understand and help abused children. It explores the way in which attachment theory can contribute to our understanding of children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse and how sexual abuse, particularly by attachment figures, might traumatise children. It proposes that working with their attachments can help children recover from child sexual abuse. It considers the vexed question of the ‘cycle of abuse’. The particular difficulties facing sexually aggressive children in changing their behaviour are highlighted. A case example of positive intervention demonstrates the application of attachment theory to the intergenerational impact of abuse.


Attachment relationships

Attachment patterns formed in infancy can powerfully persist throughout life and influence how the child will behave as an adult, particularly in intimate relationships and as a parent (Ainsworth and Eichberg 1991; Crittenden and Ainsworth 1989; Rutter 1989). There is a growing body of evidence that neurobiological correlates of attachment patterns are laid down in the brain (see Glaser 2000 for an overview). These earliest, most intimate relationships are highly significant for later well-being and emotional development.

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