Title page for ETD etd-05012012-162517

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Buckley-Willemse, Beverley
URN etd-05012012-162517
Document Title Cognitive emotion regulation, proactive coping and resilience in adult survivors of child sexual abuse
Degree PhD
Department Educational Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Dr S Human-Vogel Supervisor
  • cognitive emotion regulation
  • child sexual abuse
  • proactive coping
  • ecological model
  • spiritual strength
  • resilience
  • survivors
Date 2012-04-18
Availability unrestricted
Researchers have not been able to ascertain how survivors of childhood trauma, especially sexual abuse, develop resilience. To explore resilience and what influences its development, this mixed-method study investigated the roles of cognitive emotion regulation and proactive coping by using a critical-realist ontology.

The data was collected from eight women (between ages 25 and 56) who considered themselves to be resilient survivors of severe child sexual abuse. Harvey’s (2000) Multidimensional Trauma Recovery and Resiliency Interview (MTRR-I), the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (Garnefski, Kraaij & Spinhoven, 2002) and Greenglass’s (1999) Proactive Coping Inventory were used to gather the data necessary to determine whether resilience is influenced by cognitive emotion regulation strategies and proactive coping and to attempt to define what could be considered as traits of resilience in survivors or child sexual abuse. Through thematic analysis, approximately 50 a-priori codes were generated and grouped into 23 themes using the Atlas.ti program.

The objective of this study is to explore the relationship between cognitive emotion regulation, proactive coping and resilience in order to better understand, and develop intervention processes that can provide survivors of child sexual abuse and other trauma with the resources needed to be more resilient. Although causality could not be determined between these variables, it became evident that the more often a participant employs adaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies and the higher the scores on the Proactive Coping Inventory are, the more resilient the participant tends to be. The participants who displayed higher levels of resilience also verbalised that they felt they had dealt with the abuse and had managed to move on in their lives. Even though all the participants considered themselves to be resilient, half of them were functioning at a noticeably lower rate of resilience than the others. All the participants claimed to rely on spiritual strength in some way and attribute their resilience to their faith in God. The higher the levels of resilience, the more the participants used adaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies and proactive coping; and the more optimistic their views of the future and the more they considered their lives to be meaningful. Because the study was based on the ecological model of human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1995, 2005,) the interplay of the proximal environment, the individual, the social context and the changes that have taken place over time, were all taken into consideration because resilience, cognitive emotion regulation and proactive coping skills all develop within and between the same systems in which an individual develops. However, Bronfenbrenner (2005) states that the family is no longer taking the responsibility for the upbringing of children as it should and that other settings in society have had to step in to fulfil the role. One aspect of mental health is the ability to develop spiritually and since schools may not include religious instruction because it is the responsibility of the family, it happens that children are not being developed spiritually and this could influence the way in which individuals deal with traumatic childhood experiences.

© 2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Buckley-Willemse, B 2011, Cognitive emotion regulation, proactive coping and resilience in adult survivors of child sexual abuse, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05012012-162517/ >


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