Sexual identity group differences in child abuse and neglect

J Interpers Violence. 2013 Jul;28(10):2088-111. doi: 10.1177/0886260512471081. Epub 2013 Jan 23.


Childhood abuse and neglect are pervasive problems among girls and young women that have numerous health consequences. Research suggests that sexual minority women are more likely than heterosexual women to report childhood abuse and neglect, but little is known about which sexual minority women are at greatest risk for these early adverse experiences. Using data from a pooled sample of women in a national probability study and in a large community-based study of sexual minority women designed to replicate the national study's methodology (pooled n = 953), we investigated rates and characteristics of childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect among women from five sexual identity groups. As predicted, heterosexual women reported significantly less childhood abuse and neglect than did women who identified as mostly heterosexual, bisexual, mostly lesbian, or lesbian. We found considerable variability across the sexual minority subgroups, including severity of abuse, highlighting the need for research that distinguishes among these groups. To the extent that differences reported by women in the sample reflect the actual prevalence and severity of abuse experiences, sexual identity group differences in childhood abuse have important clinical and public health implications.

Keywords: childhood neglect; childhood physical abuse; childhood sexual abuse; sexual minority women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult