Examining the relationship between higher educational attainment, trauma symptoms, and internalizing behaviors in child sexual abuse survivors

Child Abuse Negl. 2018 Dec;86:375-383. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.10.007. Epub 2017 Oct 23.


The trauma symptoms of child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors don't end with the abuse, or even with the advent of adulthood. Instead, these symptoms can persist into all the realms of a survivor's life, including education, which sets the foundation for career advancement. This retrospective study of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (n=260) examined the relationships between trauma symptoms, dissociation, dissociative amnesia, anxiety, depression, sleep problems and higher education attainment. The purpose of this study was to determine if these factors are associated with higher education completion for childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors. Linear regressions and ANOVAs suggest that many of these variables are significantly associated with survivors' educational trajectory, and multiple linear regressions show that trauma symptoms (as measured by the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40), caregivers' education levels, and age at onset of abuse are significant predictors of decreased education levels. This information can provide insight into additional risk and protective factors for CSA survivors in order to enhance acute and long-term management of trauma symptoms to increase levels ofattainment of higher education.

Keywords: Child sexual abuse; College; Dissociation; Higher education; Trauma; Trauma symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Behavior*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult