Self-care of incest survivor mothers

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Kreklewetz, Christine
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While much is known about the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on women in adulthood, little is currently known about their self-care efforts. Given the paucity of research on self-care for survivors, particularly those who are also mothers, and the potential importance of self-care for both themselves and their children, the main goal of the present study was to explore these women’s perceptions and practices of self-care. A grounded theory approach was chosen for this exploration as it provided a sensitive and open-ended methodology which garnered an in-depth understanding of self-care for survivor mothers. The current study combined classic grounded theory (GT) research methods with photovoice methods to explore self-care from the perspective of CSA survivor mothers. Analyses of interview and photograph data from 14 survivor mothers resulted in an original basic social process for understanding how these women care for themselves, feel better, and engage in healing in the context of past violence and trauma. Complex interactive behavioural patterns were identified that recreated a whole self out of damaged fragments; these were conceptualized as “reconstituting a damaged self”. This basic social process was comprised of three main stages, including: emotional de-paining, safetying, and authenticating and returning to self. Several substages within each of these main stages were also identified. Findings were discussed in relation to four theoretical frameworks. Future research directions and clinical implications for this neglected population were suggested. Reconstituting a damaged self can be a long process for sexual abuse survivor mothers involving taking small safe steps, for the most part, on one’s own.
Self-care, incest survivors, childhood sexual abuse, Classic grounded theory, photovoice, healing, mothers