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Does surviving abuse make one more prone to becoming an abuser?


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Anyone have sources I could refer to on studies related to this question? Especially interesting would be on if so, does it tend to be the same type of abuse, or can it cross categories, for example someone physically abused as a kid becoming emotionally abusive toward a boyfriend or girlfriend. Surely all permutations have happened once or twice, but what is the most likely outcome?

The long sordid background is this:

I've gotten completely opposite answers on this from two therapists. The first was the EMDR person I went to, she said that the answer is no, as long as you are conscious of it being abuse you won't perpetuate it in the future. If not conscious then yes these things transmit from generation to generation, but I would have to be conscious of it or else I wouldn't be in effing therapy over past abuse.

Then the new Pdoc I just saw naturally asked about family history in intake meeting, I mentioned the domestic violence and subsequent anger problems which led to me eventually diagnosed w/ PTSD. Then she launches into this list of rather pointed questions which I think I've seen before under a heading of something like "15 signs your boyfriend is a woman beater." (FWIW I'm not - I'm a gay male and my fights w. boyfriend have never even gotten as far as yelling much less blows)

So now I'm confused as heck. I'm not in contact w/ past therapist, and pdoc doesn't seem like the type that I should discuss this with since she is seeing me for med mgt, not therapy. This has been a major fear of mine for a while anyway, that I would turn into an abuser since that is how I was treated and saw siblings & mother treated.

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From personal experience , it can go either or one way. Either the person who has survived childhood abuse knows what this feels like and never in a million years would harm their own children or any other child. They can be opposite, sometimes too permissive. Or very protective. Or even be somewhere right in the middle , making excellent parents. However , they could also turn out to do the same things that were doen to them as children. Abusive. It depends on what the person believes and is taught. Not all of it is biological.

Example: I was abused the first 3 yrs of life. Taken away from parents and siblings , placed in foster care. Foster mother is abusive.. Fights ensued between parents.

At 12 ran away from home, at 15 sexually assulted at H.S.

behavior continued until 16. Placed in mental hospital for 2 yrs. then in a group home for a yr. Goes back to foster home, and for anther 6yrs suffers from a ED. At 19 starts working with children. 24 has own child. A single parent and works as a preschool teacher for anther 20 yrs. while raising a child as a single parent, the kid turns out to be special needs with a whole host of developmental problems. Parenting skills and teaching skills: as a teacher, very good with kids, as a parent struggles to maintain control of child. But, manages . Does not ever hurt kids. DEspite history of abuse. Keeps it to herself. Ends up yrs later having to deal with past in therapy... Still has interpersonal problems that are disabling in nature.

Same person has biological brothers: Their lives turned out quite differently:

2 brothers end up being returned to biological parent at ages 12 and 13.

the youngest boy was not taken at a early age. Three of the brothers live in a abusive family. ALL as adults are involved in criminal activites, drugs. One brother is raised in foster care, grows up disabled.. and has a serious drinking problem as an adult , continuing into age 40's. Has own child, and raises child in a permissive home. Anther brother has a daughter, little daughter is taken away and placed in foster care by age 5. History did repeat itself here.

My own opinion, it just depends.. not all absued children grow up to abuse their own kids. However, they have to learn better ways of coping. Sometimes education can make a difference. But , not always.

The Pdoc that I see is a medication Dr too. However the therapist i see is for talking about stuff. I probably could ask him that questiuon and get a good answer.

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mscat you've clearly been through a ton of crap. I'm glad that you were able to find a way to be a better parent. I wonder how you managed financially; teachers don't get paid that much and all kids are expensive, plus special needs on top of that. I can't even take care of myself properly.

When I was young I decided I must never treat anyone the way I was being treated. I didn't know anything else so I didn't understand it was abuse at the time, but I hated being scared all the time of the people I lived with. I'm trying to get better but I'm realizing I have way too much anger & resentment built up. I don't plan on raising kids but I still need to know what is the risk I could become abusive to my significant other or even co-workers.

I guess I'll ask pdoc next time I see her in the context of what she asked me about really scared me so I really need to know what the danger is.

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Hi Ralph

Yeah I decided early on in life that I wasnt going to be anything my parents. And to be fair to myself (for once) I can honestly say I dont think I am anything like them :o

Its really harsh growing up with abuse everywhere you look at home, even though I didnt realise it was abuse to start with, I soon realised we were different to other families. :)

Just coz you have anger and resentment building up inside of you, dosnt neccesarily mean that you will end up hurting or being abusive toward others. The anger, the hurt, the resentment, its natural (well I think so) you are going to feel all of those things along with a multitude of other emotions thrown in. :)

But you can work on your anger management, learn ways of coping with it, in time, with therapy and support from your friends and loved ones, things should become easier to cope with. :)

Take care

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I do not know why I wrote all of that ..... A little embarrased:o Sweetsue brought up a important fact. Anger is a natural feeling , especially if someone has been through abuse. Thing is that the anger can be channeled towards something positive. It just needs to get out somehow without hurting anyone.

The truth is that I became a self harmer.. All that bad shit went right back out on me. Severely harmed, something awful, several times . Sometimes struggle not to.

Financially well, I still am surprised I was able to make it. We lived in the Bay area where it is expensive. I was knew about programs though from other parents and was able to get onto those for daycare expenses. I had no medical insurance , however, my son always did. He had everything he needed, yet i often neglected myself. By 10-11 i moved out of the area to a very small town wher ea biological brother lives. We have been here ever since.I can't work anymore , well because mental health issues became seriously out of control"no kidding" . I have been on disability for a few years, and my son will soon be 18, and go on SSI .

I am not a good example of a sucessful person getting over early childhood abuse , that continued onward. I did have good years though, mainly because I had a carreer I threw myself into , that could only last so long.

The only good thing is I did not abuse nobody else. Even so , I understand that what I've done is just as bad.

I can suggest to you, if you want to, is if you have any niece's or nephews , friends with little kids is to go over there, and bearound them. See if your able to stay calm when they play, running around be little kids, sometimes yelling and screaming. See if that raises your blood pressure, or are u a man who likes to play with the kids?

As long as your able to keep it together without getting mad or upset with childs play , or a crying infant, you will be fine. It takes experience , patience, toleration , and a good sense of humor. If it gets too much , then it is also important to know how to walk away. Without losing your temper.

Edited by mscat
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lagrima what you linked to hit verrrry close to home. Not repressed memories, I don't claim anything like that, but wanting to be believed. I can't imagine how much struggle could have been avoided if I had been believed when I just wanted someone to understand.

mscat, I'm sorry I didn't mean to embarrass. You raised a son with special needs and you didn't abuse him. That makes me feel more confident in that you survived that crap and didn't pass it on.

One thing I've noticed is when I am around my nieces/nephews I don't think about myself at all. I don't know if this is normal or not. I'm terrible at discipline but a great partner in crime. I get to provide piggy back rides or advise the little ones on how to annoy their parents, i.e., my sisters. :)

So kids I'm related to, I don't think I could lose my temper at them. If they cry too much or throw a tantrum I tend to sit and watch until they feel like using words. That has worked so far so I'm sticking to it. I'm more worried I'm deceiving myself on that and if that's the case I have to be very careful around the ones I love. However you were able to stop the cycle. This means it can be done. That is a hopeful sign.

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Even if there is such a correlation, Ralph, that does not mean it personally reflects on you. What are your concerns around that? Your posts to others are very gentle, wise, and patient. Does this say anything about you?

As for Socrates, my take on his quote: It is wise for us to remain humble and to be aware that there is always a place for learning and growing. That's good advice that any of us can use to make positive change.

Ralph, the cycle can be stopped. I hope you are feeling better.

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you ar ea natural with little kids. People use to tell me that "either you got it or you don't" Some little kidswill actually gravitate to a grown up who likes them. They feel it. If you are able to join in and play with the childern that is huge. Your a kid at heart. A lot of us grown ups are. I was a bit more tolerant yrs back with the kids who scream and yell. Now it actually gets to me a little , especially in stores. I wonder why on earth are the parents allowing them to behave like that? The noise pierces my ears. It just might be a different time in my life right now , because all of that never got to me.

"your worried that you are decieving yourself" how are you doing that? Because of past experiences? The great thing about this is that your able to change in a good way, it is important to be true to yourself.

I suspect that your not a father yet. When you are their is all these tremendous, overwhelming feelings when you see your new baby for the first time. Now that is truely an amazing experience. Everything seems to change after that. Things that you thought you knew or felt sometimes go out the window. Haing your own children really does put things into perspective.

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I'm only tolerant with the kids I'm related to. Kids howling in public places drives me up a wall too. More so when the parents are not acting much better. Why escalate the situation by yelling too? I have also seen parents who handle it well though, and I feel good for those kids since their parents are setting a good example.

Thinking I might be deceiving myself is that anyone would say they abhor domestic violence, yet it happens often. I would guess the majority end up doing so in the heat of a moment. If I am one of those people, that is urgent for me to deal with. I'm not a parent and don't plan to be, but I am still not keen on potentially exploding at my partner. I guess I don't need to be too worried about it though since I am generally pretty emotionally aware and don't have any desire to exercise power over or control others.

It's more due to getting grilled by my pdoc like that at a time when she already had asked me about domestic violence that really got to me. I'm scared to death I could become an abuser too and when I'm asking for help with concentration then come out getting asked if I beat my boyfriend or whatnot didn't feel good at all.

Edited by Ralph
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Even if there is such a correlation, Ralph, that does not mean it personally reflects on you.

Thank you for pointing that out. I actually mentioned something similar to another person on a completely unrelated thread. I know that's true but I was thinking about it from emotional rather than rational standpoint.

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Admittedly, I don't know too much about this, and it would be better to talk to other survivors, but you'd understand, of course, why this would be an area of extreme interest to me.

I think it's undeniable that one's abuse puts a lot of terrible crap in one's mind. I've heard of many convicted pedophiles who were abused themselves as kids. Many of them feel it's wrong, but parts of their brains were just telling them it was right to do. Now, of course, while one's abuse doesn't justify his abusing others, it gives reason as to why it occurred.

Having said all that, just because you're an abuse survivor, it doesn't mean that you'd emulate what you lived through. Many survivors go on to have children, and they love their kids so much more because of their own past. You've offered me a lot of help, but I don't know so much about you. Nevertheless, you seem devoted to the idea that you'd never hurt a child. Is the reason you don't have children because you think you might actually be inclined to harm them? I just don't gather that from you.

You may not want any children now (and your reasons are noble, I assure you,) but there's no telling where you'll end up in a few years.

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The primary reason I don't have children is that I don't think I can be a proper parent. I can barely take care of myself and I have problems paying attention. Children need lots of attention, and if you turn your back for a moment, they can get into dangerous places.

I feel and believe that based on my experience with my friend's kids and my nieces/nephews that I would never hurt a child (except by negligence which is why I always make sure I am never the only adult in charge), but the fear is that in a stressful situation I could lash out at my partner without thinking about it. I've heard that as adults we turn into our parents in the face of a stressful domestic situation and that's the last way I would want to respond.

I don't think that's too much of a risk now after this thread and previously I wasn't as worried about it. However the context around the pdoc's questions brought back the old worries from when I was a kid.

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