Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 727–737 | Cite as

Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Trajectories in Child Sexual Abuse Victims: An Analysis of Sex Differences Using the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being

  • Andrea Kohn Maikovich
  • Karestan C. Koenen
  • Sara R. Jaffee


Very few studies have prospectively examined sex differences in posttraumatic stress symptoms and symptom trajectories in youth victimized by childhood sexual abuse. This study addresses that question in a relatively large sample of children, drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, who were between the ages of 8–16 years and who were reported to Child Protective Services for alleged sexual abuse. Sex differences were examined using t tests, logistic regression, and latent trajectory modeling. Results revealed that there were not sex differences in victims’ posttraumatic stress symptoms or trajectories. Whereas caseworkers substantiated girls’ abuse at higher rates than boys’ abuse and rated girls significantly higher than boys on level of harm, there were not sex differences in three more objective measures of abuse severity characteristics. Overall, higher caseworker ratings of harm predicted higher initial posttraumatic stress symptom levels, and substantiation status predicted shallower decreases in trauma symptoms over time. Implications for theory and intervention are discussed.


NSCAW Posttraumatic stress symptoms Childhood sexual abuse Sex differences 



This study was supported by grant HD050691 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to Sara R. Jaffee. Dr. Koenen is supported by NIMH grants K08 MH-070627 and MH-078928.This document includes data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, which was developed under contract with the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (ACYF/DHHS). The data have been provided by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. The information and opinions expressed herein reflect solely the position of the authors. Nothing herein should be construed to indicate the support or endorsement of its content by ACYF/DHHS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Kohn Maikovich
    • 1
  • Karestan C. Koenen
    • 2
  • Sara R. Jaffee
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Society, Human Development and Health and EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Institute of PsychiatryKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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