American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 40, Issue 1–2, pp 109–124 | Cite as

Young Women’s Social and Occupational Development and Mental Health in the Aftermath of Child Sexual Abuse

  • Elizabeth A. SchillingEmail author
  • Robert H. AseltineJr.Email author
  • Susan Gore
Original Paper


We examined social role functioning and depressive symptoms of young adults who were abused as children in data from a longitudinal community sample. Sexually abused women and men were more depressed during their senior year of high school, and this difference was more pronounced 2 years later. We then examined a mediational model to determine whether social functioning explained the course of depressive symptoms over this transitional period. Focusing only on young women, for whom the prevalence of abuse was much higher, results indicated that two-thirds of the effect of abuse on depressive symptoms was explained by experiences and choices in the domains of work, education and intimate relationships. Having less supportive intimate relationships and lower rates of attendance at 4-year colleges were particularly important. Findings reveal the key role played by early adult interpersonal and occupational development in perpetuating the mental health impact of childhood trauma.


Sexual abuse Depression Transition to adulthood Roles Mediation Development 



This research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH55626) and from the William T. Grant Foundation. The authors gratefully acknowledges the support of Karen Bourdon, NIMH Project Office and the Center for Survey Research which conducted the data collection. We thank Mary Ellen Colten, Dorothy Cerankowski, Phyllis Doucette, Stacey Kadish, Michelle Poulin, and Karen Verrochi for their contributions to the project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Behavioral Sciences and Community Health, MC 3910University of Connecticut Health CenterFarmingtonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Public Health ResearchUniversity of ConnecticutEast HartfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, Center for Survey ResearchUniversity of Massachusetts at BostonBostonUSA

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