Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1359–1374 | Cite as

Sexual Self-Schemas of Female Child Sexual Abuse Survivors: Relationships with Risky Sexual Behavior and Sexual Assault in Adolescence

  • Ashley F. NiehausEmail author
  • Joan Jackson
  • Stephanie Davies
Original Paper


Childhood sexual trauma has been demonstrated to increase survivors’ risk for engaging in unrestricted sexual behaviors and experiencing adolescent sexual assault. The current study used the sexual self-schema construct to examine cognitive representations of sexuality that might drive these behavioral patterns. In Study 1 (N = 774), we attempted to improve the content validity of the Sexual Self Schema Scale for child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors, introducing a fourth sexual self-schema factor titled the “immoral/irresponsible” factor. In Study 2 (N = 1150), the potential differences in sexual self-views, as assessed by the four sexual self-schema factors, between CSA survivors and non-victims were explored. In addition, Study 2 evaluated how these sexual self-schema differences may contribute to participation in unrestricted sexual behaviors and risk for sexual assault in adolescence. Results indicated that a history of CSA impacted the way women viewed themselves as a sexual person on each of the four factors. CSA survivors were found to view themselves as more open and possessing more immoral/irresponsible cognitions about sexuality as compared to women who did not have a CSA history. In addition, the CSA survivors endorsed less embarrassment and passionate/romantic views of their sexual selves. The interaction of CSA severity and the sexual self-schemas explained variance in adolescent sexual assault experiences above and beyond the severity of CSA history and participation in risky sexual behaviors. The findings suggest that sexual self-views may serve to moderate the relationship between CSA and adolescent sexual assault. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.


Child sexual abuse Sexual self-schema Sexual risk Adolescent sexual assault 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley F. Niehaus
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joan Jackson
    • 2
  • Stephanie Davies
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychology Service (116B)Boston VA Healthcare SystemBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.OttawaCanada

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