Secondary trauma and parenting practices in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigators
Investigating cases of child pornography requires daily exposure to sexually explicit material involving children and may have negative implications on the mental well-being of those in this line of work. Although much research has focused on job-stress and burnout in this profession, there is not enough evidence to understand if this secondary trauma is carried home, whether parenting behaviors are influenced by it, or if these associations differ by gender. This study aimed to identify whether work exposure to sexually explicit material involving children is associated with secondary traumatic stress symptoms among 212 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force workers and whether these symptoms were associated with participants’ parenting behaviors and concerns about their children’s use of the internet. Participants completed measures from the Internet Parenting Style Instrument, Concern about Information Disclosure Scale, the Warmth and Involvement sections of the Alabama Parenting Questionnaire, and the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale. Secondary trauma was found to be associated with participants being less likely to stop their children from using the internet when secondary trauma levels were elevated. Secondary trauma was also found to be associated with participant’s concern about their children’s disclosure of information online such that reported concern was higher if secondary trauma levels were elevated. The associations between secondary trauma, stopping behaviors, and concern about information disclosure were both moderated by gender; the associations were stronger for mothers compared to fathers.