The moderating impact of social support following childhood sexual abuse

Violence Vict. 1992 Summer;7(2):173-86.


The role of social support in moderating the impact of childhood sexual abuse on adult psychological adjustment was examined. Subjects included 475 women, age 18-45, some of whom were currently receiving treatment, others who were not. Women in the treatment group were receiving therapy for either alcoholism, for being battered, or for mental health problems. The comparison group was drawn from two sources: a random household sample and a sample of women attending drinking driver classes. Among both groups, women who had been sexually abused exhibited more psychological symptoms and lower self-esteem compared to those who were not abused. Latency of disclosure of childhood sexual abuse had no impact on long-term consequences of the abuse for either the treatment or the comparison group. However, among women in the comparison group, those who experienced supportive reactions following disclosure of sexual abuse had fewer psychological symptoms and somewhat higher self-esteem relative to those who did not receive support. Social support had no apparent effect on the long-term adjustment of women in the treatment group. Possible explanations for this pattern and directions for future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Development*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self Concept
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Support*