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Persistent and Transitory Sexualized Behavior Problems in Children

Abstract

The aim of this longitudinal study was to examine the course of sexualized behavior problems (SBP) over 2 years in a sample comprised of 104 children aged 2–12, including 62 children with histories of child sexual abuse (CSA). Parents completed questionnaires assessing SBP, internalizing and externalizing difficulties at baseline, as well as 2 years later. In more than half (56.7%) of children with clinically significant SBP at baseline, sexualized behaviors persisted and remained at a clinically significant level over time. In children with CSA, 48.4% presented persistent SBP, 27.4% presented transitory SBP, while 19.4% did not present clinically significant SBP at either time. CSA increased the relative risk of persistent SBP 3.29 times, and for each one-unit increase in scores of externalizing difficulties, the odds of persistent SBP increased by 21%. The findings suggest that SBP consequent to CSA, especially when it co-occurs with externalizing difficulties, is likely to remain at levels warranting clinical intervention.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Because continuous outcomes variables are recommended in linear path analysis [69], the model was also re-estimated with a continuous SBP outcome variable taking into account both the mean score of the child’s CSBI at T1 and T2, and the number of time he/she reached clinical cutoff: [M(CSBI score T1 + CSBI score T2)*number of time above cutoff]. The total of this continuous variable ranged between 0 and 222. Results confirmed that the model hold, with similar adjustment fit indices, path coefficients and explained percentage of variances.

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The funding was provided by Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Société et Culture.

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Ensink, K., Godbout, N., Bigras, N. et al. Persistent and Transitory Sexualized Behavior Problems in Children. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 49, 621–631 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-017-0778-0

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Keywords

  • Sexual behavior problems
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Risk factors
  • Internalized behaviors
  • Externalized behaviors