Developmental psychology

This written assignment is designed to help develop the following Graduate Qualities: 1 (operating with and upon a body of knowledge), 2 (is prepared for life-long learning in pursuit of personal development and excellence in professional practice), and 4 (working autonomously).

For this assessment, you will be required to:

Select a topic in developmental psychology of current social concern. The topic will consist of an undesirable developmental outcome in an adult part of the lifespan. You will receive guidance during lectures and tutorials about suitable topics. The main restriction is that the developmental pathway must be different from examples provided or examples developed in class.

Do some research to get an understanding of current policy and/or practice in the area you have selected.

Develop a pathways model, consisting of two links and including three life stages (this will be explained in lectures), explaining the origins of the undesirable developmental outcome that you have chosen to analyse.

Research psychological theories and empirical research to explain each link in your causal pathway, taking into account contextual factors such as culture or the socio-political climate.

As a result of your analysis, suggest and justify possible policy changes, treatments and/or other individual and/or community interventions.

Report length – ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM of 2500 words (if you go beyond this limit you will lose 1% for every 1% by which you exceed 2500 words). Note that in-text citations ARE included in the word length but the reference list is not.

If you provide a separate background section for your case study please not that this is NOT MARKED and NOT INCLUDED IN THE WORD COUNT.

Developmental psychology

Childhood Sexual Abuse: Outcome: difficulties   in relating with opposite sex    

Title: The pathway from being sexually abused in childhood to low self-esteem and depression in adolescence and to alcoholism in adulthood.

Low Self-esteem and Depression      Alcoholism  


Aim and Introduction

The effects of child sexual abuse go beyond childhood. Sexual abuse results in several effects that cause depression, loss of self-esteem, identity confusion, and many emotional problems later in life. Moreover, abused children can also develop difficulties in relating with the opposite sex later in life (Godbout et al., 2014). Child abuse causes emotional problems later when children grow up. Abused children are likely to develop low self–esteem because they will feel ashamed of themselves (Pipe et al., 2013).  Self-esteem is described as an individual’s identification of positive facets of themselves which they appreciate. Therefore, an abused child will not appreciate himself due to the negative feelings associated with sexual abuse (America, 2012).

Child abuse is a devastating social problem not only in America but also around the world. In America, over 200 cases of child abuse are reported annual to the social service agencies. In one of the recent surveys conducted by the Department of social  services in America, the survey findings reveals that approximately 15% of adult males and 20% of adult females recall being sexually abused or sexual assaulted   during their childhood years (Barth et al., 2013).

For many centuries, cases of child abuse have not been adequately addressed by affected family members and the law.  According to Schetky & Green, (2014), children have been subjected to abuse by their parents or guardians since the beginning of time. Children are often subjected to abuse by their parents or adults but laws have constantly failed to protect children sexual abuse since children are considered as properties of their fathers (America, 2012). Child sexual abuse has not been viewed as a common problem historically. For instance, in the past philosophers assumed that talking about incest was as a result of a psychological disorder, and therefore, little efforts were made to analyse the emotional problems exhibited by adults (Zwi et al., 2015). This also used to be a common assumption by medical experts who dealt with patients having psychological problems (Zwi et al., 2015). This paper analyses sexual abuse and sheds light on the background of the social problem as well as the pathway from being sexually abused in childhood to low self-esteem and depression in adolescence to alcoholism in adulthood. The paper also analyses some of the policies that have been put in place including school-based prevention policies and legal policies to minimize child sexual abuse effects. The essay also presents a case study about Jessica an active student who was sexually abused by her neighbour hence affecting her self –esteem.

Jessica lived with her grandmother who could not properly take care of her. The grandmother could not offer her the basics due to poverty. Jessica was forced to work to help her grandmother at an early age. Jessica’s mother died while her father abandoned her leaving her with the grandmother. Working for people to get some money exposed Jessica to various abuses including sexual abuse. This case study highlights some of the emotional effects of child abuse.

Current approaches to policy and/or practice and/or interventions.

Most prevention strategies are developed in response to a particular problem. Therefore, it is difficult to come up with a comprehensive plan before the causes and consequences of the problem are well conceptualized.

However, the introduction of sexual abuse education programs in schools has proven to be a cost-effective strategy. These programs have been geared towards teaching children how to evade or flee abusive situations as compared to coping with the consequences after being abused. School based education programs targeting young children have been effective strategies of encouraging children to disclose their past abuse which can be done during or after an abuse prevention program has been conducted (Smallbone et al., 2013). These programs have empowered children who feel they are support and the society is ready to address the problems they are going through.

Schools play a central role since primary and secondary prevention strategies that focus on education can reach out to a larger population minimizing sexual abuse incidences. However most school-based sexual prevention strategies are based on the assumption that sexual offenders are strangers, but some of these abusers are known by the victims. Teaching skilled avoidance tactics are not enough to prevent child sexual abuse which is on the rise. Therefore, policies should be initiated to focus on the general environment where children spend most of their time apart from schools. For instance, the government should develop community-based centres to educate young children on how to remain safe and also encourage community members to report any suspicious activities within the neighbourhood (Zwi et al, 2015). The government should also establish social institutions where children can go and air their problems without feeling intimidated.

School officials are expected come up with the standard code of conduct and also create screening procedures before hiring staffs or any volunteer. Teachers are required to report child sexual abuses to the relevant authorities (Barth et al, 2013). One of the research findings by Findlater (2014) suggests that it is required by federal laws specific professional groups needs to report cases of suspicion of child abuse to the police and other relevant authorities. Findlater (2014) states that reporting is affected by specific factors like administrators’ attitude and teachers’ willingness to address sexual abuses.

It is of great importance for family, friends, and the state to put in place interventions tailored towards individuals who have developed a drinking problem. However, the major challenge with such interventions and several interventions in general, is that family members and friends of the affected victim wait for so long to intervene. It is advisable for loved ones to seek help even though they are not sure of the extent of the alcohol problem, than waiting until it is too late and alcohol takes over the life of the individual (Findlater, 2014). Timely intervention will go a long way to ensuring the victim records desirable outcomes from the condition

Link 1: From sexual abuse to low self-esteem  

Developmental Period: Childhood

Vulnerable children like Jessica are likely to be exposed to a situation that can lead to being sexually abused which triggers emotions of low self-esteem and depression. Sexual abusers tend to take advantage of vulnerable children assuming nobody will follow up the case because these children are taken care of by their old grandmothers who have little knowledge about laws related to sexual abuse. Self –esteem and depression are based on beliefs, self-perception, and feelings that one has about themself. If a person’s self-esteem is healthy, s/he feels self-confident, proficient, and competent to carry out various activities in their life. Finkelhor et al., (2014) point out that self-esteem installs a ‘can do’ attitude. In addition, self-esteem affects the behaviours, motivation for behaviour, and attitudes of a person. It has an impact on an individual’s ability to control thoughts, emotions, and behaviours and maintain positive social relationships. According to Mallon and Hess (2014), children develop self-esteem early in their life. When the child believes in themselves, they face challenges efficiently and perform well not only academically but also in other day-to-day activities.

Initially Jessica was an active student but after being sexually abused by her neighbour she developed fear and felt worthless. Pecora, Whittaker, Maluccio and Barth (2012) reveal that when a child is sexual abused their self-esteem reduces because they have a negative view of themselves.

The attachment theory states that children develop behaviours based on how they are nurtured by their caregivers. The bond that develops between a caregiver and a child affects the relationships of the child later in life. The theory points out that secure attachment patterns are created with a consistent, nurturing caregiver. Conversely, inconsistent patterns arises as a result of an emotionally, neglectful, inconsistent, abusive caregiver. Studies have indicated that approximately 80 percent of abused children exhibit attachments with low-self esteem (Mrazek & Kempe, 2014).  This is because when a child is sexually abused, the child feels powerless and helpless, unable to exercise any level of mastery in any situation. When children are sexually abused by adults who they trust, they tend to develop mistrust resulting to difficulties relating to people when they grow up.

  A loss in self-esteem later bears feelings of shame, depression, relationship difficulties, and loneliness. Moreover, children that have been abused sexually develop the fear of being hurt as well as self-blame and guilt regarding the sexual abuse (Findlater, 2014). The victim also develops a sense of being damaged. They perceive themselves as being worthless and invaluable. All these features contribute significantly to development of low self-esteem. This is a common phenomenon experienced by young girls from poor backgrounds. Most parents are unavailable to provide them with all the basic needs hence making them more vulnerable to abuse (Findlater, 2014). Child protection entails providing children with all the basic needs and ensuring that they live in a safe environment that fosters a healthy behaviour (Godbout et al., 2014).

Several research studies have linked low self esteem to sexual abuse, study findings reveal that   rape survivors often suffer from low self esteem (Schetky & Green, 2014). This is because they have a negative view about themselves creating difficulties in their personal lives especially when in a relationship with others. Rape survivors lose personal power that permits them to lead a healthy and balanced life. Healthy relationships needs both partners to be confident about their personal value, when these value are missing in any relationship, both parties might feel unsecure.

The manner in which one views himself will obviously have an effect on how he experiences his life. Individuals that have low self-esteem end up struggling trying to find happiness and success, mostly because the regard themselves as worthless to enjoy what life has to offer. A number of individuals who are suffering from low-self-esteem will engage in alcohol abuse because it provides a “solution” to their problems (Wright, 2014). What these individuals do not know is that use of alcohol to solve feelings of low self-esteem only opens another door to further addiction and misery.

As part of policy requirements, school administrators are required to assess the existing child protection policies and procedures to review appropriate areas with the privileging situations (Furniss, 2013).

Link 2: Low self-esteem to Alcoholism

Developmental Period: Adolescence to Adulthood

When low self-esteem plays a major part in a teenager’s upbringing, the person starts viewing himself as inferior to everyone else and deficient in a number of ways (Schetky & Green, 2014). They start viewing their looks and bodies as undesirable and doubting their ability to take part in any activities. Low self-esteem causes a feeling of being stuck with little or no energy or motivation (Pecora et al., 2012). These victims become drudgery hence increasing the likelihood of engaging in destructive behavior and escaping into a world where they are not subjected to judgment. The victims find it an easy to take part in alcohol consumption since it does not require any special ability and no one cares if one likes himself or not Alcohol drinking is considered to be an effortless way of solving self-esteem issues (Mallon & Hess, 2014).  Low self-esteem is centered on psychological and emotional belief that one will fail, scorned, or be ridiculed no matter the outcome hence there is no need for one to engage in any positive conduct. There are several differences between individuals with high self esteem and those with low self esteem. For instance, a research by Collin-Vézina et al., (2013) reveals that people with high self esteem focus on growth while those with low self esteem focus on avoiding making mistakes in life. Hence, low self esteem is correlated with several negative outcomes such as alcoholism.

According to psychoanalysis, individuals tend to repress bad feelings to avoid experiencing them. This causes stagnation in life. Children need to complete each stage of development to develop healthy personality (Lipovsky et al., 2013). Failure to complete the development stages causes stagnation resulting to unhealthy personality .this can however be resolved after undergoing counseling to resolve some of the repressed feelings. \

Victimization of children alters their attitudes, self-concept, and attributes, the change may in turn influence an individual’s response to later situations (Euser et al., 2013). Studies have identified that low self-esteem to be a primary consequence of childhood victims (Euser, et al, 2013). Child abuse has always been related to certain aspects of adjustment by children. For example, sexual abuse predicts low self-esteem, but not peer relationship issues. On the other hand, emotional abuse is not associated with low self-esteem but difficulties in peer relationship (Wright, 2014). Therefore, the best predictions of particular aspects of a child’s adjustment are provided by considering severity, timing, and timing of maltreatment. For certain a group of abused minors, having good friends is associated with improved over time in self-esteem.

It is advisable for parents, guardians, and instructors to cultivate a sense of positive self-esteem (Furniss, 2013). Self-worth, and reinforcement to the children or students no matter how small or inconsequential the situation seems. Embarrassing, pitting, or berating a child against other children does not trigger the “less than” performer to put in more effort or tackle a challenge. Instead, it spawns insecurity and resentment on both the parent and the sibling of friend (Godbout et al., 2014).  Therefore, it is the duty of parents and educators to work with their children to dispense negative talk and develop something special with the child that they can identify with and share pride in it. More importantly, parents should dispel mental replaying of previous events such as that of sexual abuse that arouse unpleasant memories. Furniss (2013) adds that engaging in the “blame game” or maintain the ambers from previous experiences burning are self-destructive and strengthen an individual’s inability to perform or meet the challenge.

Summary of case study

With little or no parental guidance, children are likely to be sexually abused (Furniss, 2013). These children’s self-esteem will be low and can cause depression. Chronic depression drives an individual to engaging in reckless conducts such as alcohol abuse, mugging and being abusive to their children in future (Pecora et al., 2012).  Policy programs targeting school-aged children educating them on child sexual abuse and how to safeguard themselves. This helps to minimize the rate of child abuse within the society


Evaluation of current policy/interventions + Suggestions for intervention and/or policy changes

The best approach for any prevention strategy is to focus more on preventive services. To prevent child sexual abuse means putting appropriate measures by addressing the environmental factors and the societal norms that highly contribute to child sexual abuse. The focus of any sexual abuse prevention strategy is to enhance individual self esteem by encouraging healthy relationships among children to help them lead healthy lives (Zwi et al, 2015).

There are no particular risk factors that can be used to determine if someone is likely to be a sexual offender (Mallon & Hess, 2014). The aim of the prevention programs is to minimize the occurrence of child sexual abuse (Lipovsky & Kilpatrick, 2013). Initiatives should be put in place to sensitize communities and neighbourhoods or even age groups that have high incidences of sexual abuse. The other suggestion is to incorporate strategies that will be designed to respond quickly to child sexual abuse such as encouraging the victims to report immediately after the incident (Euser et al., 2013).

School-based program should be reinforced to teach children about developing healthy relationship that includes sexual abuse prevention process. Sexual prevention program should form part of the school curriculum and be part class. There is also need to mandate sexual abuse prevention education, a practical initiative that has been adopted by several countries across the globe (Collin-Vézina et al., 2013).  School-based sexual prevention program aims  at addressing low self esteem among abused children and also teach young children how to avoid situations that might increase their  chances of being sexually abused (Collin-Vézina et al., 2013).


Preventing child sexual abuse should not be a matter of teachers and school administration and the local authorities. Prevention involves parents and the community to create a safe environment for children. Polices alone cannot minimize the rate of child abuse, but with the comprehensive policies combined with appropriate intervention child sexual abuse is likely to reduce. The links highlights how sexual abuse is associated with low self esteem emphasizing on the need to cultivate healthy relations among children to enhance their self esteem.  The second link highlights the importance of enhancing individual self esteem to avoid repressed feelings that can lead to alcoholism. Sexual abuse causes emotional effects that can affect children during their adulthood hence there is need for proper intervention to minimize some of the long term effects.


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