Child Sexual Abuse: the Detrimental Impact of its Specific Features

Abstract

Child sexual abuse (CSA) has been linked to several negative psychosocial outcomes in its victims throughout life. However, the specific impact of different features of CSA has not been sufficiently studied. This research addressed: 1) the impact of CSA on psychosocial outcomes in young adulthood; and 2) the differential effect of a wide range of CSA features (such as, victim’s gender, age of onset, penetration occurrence, victim-offender relationship, number of offenders and use of force) in deviant behavior and psychopathological symptoms, in male and female victims. Our sample comprised 617 young adults and data was collected using the ACE Study Questionnaire, the Deviant Behavior Variety Scale and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale. Pearson correlations, point-biserial correlations were used to test the associations between CSA and indicators of psychopathological symptoms and deviant behavior. We then analyzed CSA’s capacity to predict these outcomes using multiple linear regressions. Afterwards, participants who were identified as victims of CSA (n = 76) were selected and we carried out separate analyses for males and females using point-biserial correlations and calculating Cohen’s d effect size. Our findings not only support the hypothesis that CSA is associated with negative psychosocial outcomes in young adulthood, but also suggest that some specific features of CSA are positively associated with psychopathological symptoms and/or deviant behavior (e.g., age of onset, victim-perpetrator relationship). Furthermore, gender differences were found in the pattern of these associations. This research strengthens the scientific evidence concerning the potential clinical benefits of exploring the effect of specific characteristics of CSA.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Master’s degree students who actively worked on the data collection. We are also grateful for the reviewers’ valuable suggestions.

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Correspondence to Miguel Basto-Pereira.

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Maciel, L., Basto-Pereira, M. Child Sexual Abuse: the Detrimental Impact of its Specific Features. Child Ind Res 13, 2117–2133 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-020-09730-y

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Keywords

  • Child sexual abuse
  • Characteristics of child sexual abuse
  • Mental health
  • Deviant behavior