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
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
Do some research to get an understanding of current policy and/or practice in the area you
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.
Title: The pathway from being sexually abused in childhood to low self-esteem and
depression in adolescence and to alcoholism in adulthood.
Aim and Introduction
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 2
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).
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 3
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
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.
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 4
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
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 5
intervention will go a long way to ensuring the victim records desirable outcomes from the
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-
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
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 6
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.
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 7
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
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 8
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
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
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 9
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
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,
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
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 10
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.
Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 11
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Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 12
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Running head: DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 13
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