Psychopathology of sexual abuse in young people with intellectual disability

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2001 Jun;45(Pt 3):244-52. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2788.2001.00314.x.


The present study addressed two issues using a sample of child and adolescent victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse: (1) the extent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the sample; and (2) the possible distinction between perpetrators whose motivations were sexually impulsive, and those who were controlling and abuse-reactive. Retrospective case material from 43 cases (21 victims only, and 22 perpetrators, of whom 16 were also victims) provided the data. Post-traumatic symptomatology was not common. Only one case of PTSD was found. Perpetrators could be distinguished by whether they had suffered sexual abuse alone, sexual and physical abuse, or neither. The proposed distinction between perpetrators received support. Sexual abuse directed at younger victims was associated with earlier experience of multiple forms of abuse. The present data does not support the view that post-traumatic symptoms following victimization are a mediator of sexual abuse perpetration. It is argued that an elaboration of the Williams & New developmental model of perpetration better fits the data.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Crime Victims
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Male
  • Psychopathology
  • Sex Offenses / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology