Effects on Social Support Networks: Exploring the Impact of Type and Severity of Abuse Experienced by Children and Adolescents

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The importance of social networks for young people who have experienced abuse and neglect remains an underdeveloped area of research and practice. The aim of the study was to investigate the relationship between abuse experienced by children and adolescents and subsequent outcomes on their social support networks. The study sample consisted of 85 clients (aged 8-15) of a service specifically for children reported to child protection due to child abuse and neglect. Abuse was measured using the Harm Consequences Assessment (HCA), which recorded the level of abuse experienced in five domains: Abandonment/No Appropriate Carer, Developmental and Medical Harm, Emotional and Psychological Harm, Physical Harm and Injury, and Sexual Harm. This also ranked abuse experienced in terms of severity: concerning, serious or extreme. Social network was measured using the Social Network Map. Analyses revealed a very high level of abuse for most young people across multiple domains. Social support was most evident in the "other family" category, and a relatively high level of perceived support was reported. There were few significant associations between levels of abuse and social support networks. However, one significant effect evident was for those young people who had not experienced developmental abuse who reported a significantly better network quality in work/school area of life than those who had experienced concerning or serious developmental abuse. This study contributes to an important body of emerging evidence on social support networks for children who have experienced maltreatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-187
Number of pages8
JournalChildren Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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