Sexual trajectories of abused and neglected youths

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2004 Apr;25(2):77-82. doi: 10.1097/00004703-200404000-00001.


The study objective was to examine whether childhood abuse or neglect is associated with the age of onset of puberty and sexual and romantic behavior. A cohort of children (the Children in the Community study) was randomly selected and studied prospectively from childhood to adulthood. A sample of 816 youths were interviewed in their homes at a mean age of 14, 16, and 22 years in 1983, from 1985 to 1986, and from 1991 to 1994. The outcome measures included age of menarche, signs of male puberty, first being in love, dating, sexual intercourse, and pregnancy reported by youths. Child abuse and neglect were measured by official records and youth reports. A history of two or more incidents of sexual abuse was significantly associated with early puberty and early pregnancy after gender, class, race, paternal absence, and mother's age at the birth of the study child were controlled statistically. Public education regarding risk for premature sexual behavior among youths who have experienced sexual abuse is warranted. Efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy should include monitoring and educating sexually abused children as they enter puberty.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Puberty
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires