Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 74 Issue 3 (September 2001), Pages 277-418

Personal constructs, childhood sexual abuse and revictimization (pages 379-397)

Within the theoretical framework of Ryle's Procedural Sequence Object Relations Model and Kelly's Personal Construct Theory, this study investigates sex‐role polarization of incest survivors and the centrality of abuse within survivors' constructs of men that may contribute to revictimization. Repertory grid methodology was used with 40 female survivors of childhood sexual abuse and 28 non‐abused women. Grid measures and psychometric measures were compared between groups of women who had and had not experienced childhood sexual abuse, revictimized and non‐revictimized survivors, and survivors who had and had not experienced incestuous abuse. Results showed significant differences between survivors and non‐abused women, with survivors having higher levels of depression and perceived distress, lower self‐esteem and higher self/ideal self discrepancy. Hypothesized differences in sex‐role polarization were not found. There were few differences between revictimized and non‐revictimized survivors, although revictimized survivors rated ‘self now’ as more powerful than non‐revictimized survivors. No differences were found between survivors who had and had not experienced incestuous abuse. In addition to the value of exploring personal constructs, a range of models need to be considered in understanding revictimization and women's construal of men. The implications of using repertory grid methodology for research and clinical work are discussed.

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