This study examined the impact of the contextual environment of the family on post abuse adjustment of sexually abused adolescents. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory was used to investigate how the external influences of the family impact the capacity of families to foster the recovery of sexually abused adolescents. The results from this secondary analysis of data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being Wave I (NSCAW, Dowd et al., 2002) support contextually sensitive treatment planning for sexually abused adolescents and their families.

Key Take Away Points

  • The contextual environment of the family impacts child and adolescent development.
  • The contextual environment of the family significantly influences an adolescent’s response to sexual maltreatment.
  • Treatment planning for sexually abused adolescents should be sensitive to the influence of the family's contextual environment.

Author Biography

Javonda Williams, PhD, LCSW, is the BSW Program Chair and Assistant Professor at The University of Alabama School of Social Work. She has worked in various positions in the child welfare arena, including foster care and family preservation. She has also worked as a therapist for sexually abused children.

Debra Nelson-Gardell, PhD, LCSW, is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Trained in clinical social work at the master’s and doctoral level at The Florida State University School of Social Work, she has presented at local, regional, state, national, and international conferences. Dr. Nelson-Gardell has worked as a treatment provider, supervisor, program evaluator, consultant, presenter, educator, and researcher. Her areas of scholarship include child sexual abuse assessment and treatment, family violence, and program evaluation.


The data utilized in this publication were made available by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, Cornell University, Ithaca New York. The data from the Substantiation of Child Abuse And Neglect Reports Project were originally collected by John Doris and John Eckenrode. Funding support for preparing the data for public distribution was provided by a contract (90-CA-1370) between the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect and Cornell University. Neither the collector of the original data, funding agency, nor the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect bears any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here.

Responses to this Article:

Monit Cheung and Jacquelynn Duron, Commentary on "An Examination of the Contextual Environment of Families with Sexually Abused Adolescents" (November 2011)