Theoretical perspectives of child abuse

Robyn Brunton, Rachel Dryer

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter provides an overview of six theories that describe and explain child abuse and its potential sequelae for perinatal women. Theories examined include cascade models that provide a framework for understanding the progressive effects of adversity. Differential susceptibility theory highlights the individual characteristics that increase or reduce an individual’s vulnerability to adversity. Experiential avoidance seeks to explain behaviors used to cope with distress (e.g., substance use, self-harm) and how disassociation can be a means of coping with distressing childbirth. Resilience theories provide insights into the opportunities for positive interventions. The traumagenic dynamics model was initially developed for child sexual abuse but has the potential for broader application in demonstrating the sequelae of abuse. Finally, while limited in its application for perinatal research, the stress sensitization model can explain some psychological outcomes related to abuse and perinatal women. The theories and models reviewed in this chapter account for the transactional nature of the individual experiences of childhood abuse and have explanatory power for perinatal research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerinatal care and considerations for survivors of child abuse
Subtitle of host publicationChallenges and opportunities
EditorsRobyn Brunton, Rachel Dryer
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783031336393
ISBN (Print)9783031336386
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2023


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