The relationship of age, circumstances, and disclosure of sexual abuse to later functioning

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Boyes, Debby A.
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The present study examined the effects of age, abuse circumstances, and disclosure of child sexual abuse on current adjustment of adult women. Four hundred and nine undergraduate students at the University of Manitoba completed a 374-item questionnaire. Data obtained included demographic information, risk factors, social desirability, history of sexual abuse and disclosure, and psychosocial adjustment. One half of the sample reported nonconsensual sexual contact before the age of 18 years. Of the sexually abused group, 41% reported nonconsensual sexual contact in more than one developmental age period. Analyses included MANOVAs with adjustment of alpha for multiple tests, and PCAs. Results indicated that women who reported sexual abuse scored significantly higher on measures of psychological symptoms than women who had not reported sexual abuse. Age period at which sexual abuse occurred tended to be related to current adult functioning. Women abused in childhood, or beginning in preadolescence, and continuing into adolescence tended to report more elevated psychological symptoms than women abused beginning in childhood and subsequently, again in adolescence, or women abused in one period only. Women abused in childhood or adolescence tended to report more elevated psychological symptoms than women abused in preadolescence. Use of force statistically affected the degree of women's psychological difficulties. Nine other circumstances surrounding abuse tended negatively to affect women's adjustment. Results were consistent for multiple general, trauma-specific, and aftereffects measures.