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In the Department of Psychological Medicine there is a broad programme of childhood adversity research, with a particular focus on childhood sexual abuse.

Qualitative and quantitative methods, including the use of “big data” and longitudinal analysis are used to examine childhood adversity and sexual abuse and victimisation.

Research currently being conducted includes:

  • Child maltreatment and health outcomes over the life course;
  • Family preservation as an alternative to foster care;
  • An international collaboration examining post-traumatic growth via group treatment with sexual abuse survivors;
  • Males' experience of sexual abuse and the resulting sequelae

Students with an interests in sexual abuse, mental disorder, and wellbeing are invited to contact the lead researchers, Dr Tess Patterson and Dr Charlene Rapsey.

Key researchers

Sexual abuse and health outcomes

Several projects are underway:

  • The Otago Women's Health Study started in 1989. Two follow-up studies have been conducted. This is the first published longitudinal study with information about associations between mental disorder and mental health in older women.
  • Data from the Integrated Data Infrastructure are being used to examine associations between health outcomes and a history of childhood maltreatment and adult victimisation.

Contact Dr Charlene Rapsey.

Family preservation

Removal into foster care is associated with a number of devastating outcomes for mothers and for their children in the short and long term. An alternative to foster care is intervention with the mother to reduce care and protection concerns and allow for family preservation.

Family preservations services are available in Aotearoa, New Zealand but whether these interventions are effective at improving child and mother outcomes is unknown. Several studies are underway to investigate the effectiveness of family preservation interventions. Studies focus on health and socio-emotional outcomes as well as processes such as the role of attachment theory.

Contact Dr Charlene Rapsey.

Collaborators and links

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