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UCD research to explore how child abuse survivors found strength in their struggles

The research aims to identify the positive factors that helped peole who experienced trauma in their childhoods.

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NEW RESEARCH BEING conducted at University College Dublin is exploring how victims of childhood abuse and neglect coped with their trauma and the positive factors in their lives that have helped them.

This study is being conducted by Grace Sheridan, a clinical psychologist in training, and is supervised by Professor Alan Carr from the School of Psychology at UCD.

The research is exploring post-trauma outcomes of people who experienced physical, emotional, sexual abuse and/or neglect during childhood.

Sheridan said the research is “seeking to identify factors that contributed to overcoming those experiences which enabled the survivors to live a meaningful life”.

“It’s sort of controversial because most of the research in this area looks at post traumatic stress and mental health difficulties and alcohol addiction, things like that. What this does is challenge the perception that they are damaged people and looks at their strengths”.

“Focusing on growth and development in the aftermath of childhood maltreatment does not discount the pain or suffering associated with these experiences,” Sheridan said. 

“We believe that understanding recovery and growth after trauma is crucial because with an integrated understanding, we may be able to identify best practices for clinicians and develop recommendations to better address the psychological needs of survivors of childhood trauma.”

If you look at health studies relating to medical trauma like a person having cancer, it’s typical of them to say they appreciate life more now because maybe it opened up new opportunities to be closer to people and re-establish relationships. Now, abuse is different, but we want to know if any of this concept applies – is there a coexistence of distress and growth?

She described this kind of research as a “strong new wave message” in mental health care which could help with the development of new programmes for survivors. 

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“We need to understand how people can recover from childhood abuse and neglect and how we can best support them in doing so. In order to achieve this, it’s crucial that we identify the conditions under which some people can thrive as they grapple with earlier traumatic experiences,” Sheridan said. 

Participants are being asked to complete an anonymous survey online, answering questions about topics like their family relationships and life experiences. Sheridan said she hopes to have results early next year. 

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