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The Effects Of Childhood Physical Abuse and Gender On Adult Interpersonal Relationships and the Therapeutic Alliance

27 July 2007


Millions of children are abused in this country every year. Research has shown that child abuse has many negative socio-emotional consequences in childhood. This study examined the long-term consequences of childhood physical abuse in adults. In particular, this study investigated the relationship between childhood physical abuse, interpersonal functioning and the therapeutic alliance in adult outpatients. The effects of gender were also considered as a moderating variable. Data was gathered from 392 clients seeking individual psychotherapy at a university training clinic. It was hypothesized that clients who reported childhood physical would report weaker early therapeutic alliances and greater interpersonal dysfunction than clients without histories of abuse. Additionally, it was hypothesized that abused men would report weaker therapeutic alliances and less interpersonal difficulties than abused women. Findings suggest that clients with histories of physical abuse do not form weaker therapeutic alliances early in therapy. However, clients with histories of physical abuse appear to experience greater interpersonal impairment. No significant gender differences were found. Implications for intervention and future research are discussed.


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