Objective: This study contrasted a group of sexually abused girls, aged 6 to 12 years, with two demographically comparable control groups, girls from a child psychiatry outpatient department, and girls from a general pediatric clinic to determine whether differences in sexual behavior and psychopathology symptoms could be demonstrated.
Method: All girls and their mothers underwent an evaluation protocol composed of two parent-report inventories, the Child Behavior Checklist and the Child Sexual Behavior Inventory.
Results: Sexually abused girls and psychiatric controls manifested more psychopathology symptoms, including internalizing and externalizing behaviors, than the nonpsychiatric controls. Relative to both control groups, sexually abused girls manifested more sexual behavior problems: masturbating openly and excessively, exposing their genitals, indiscriminately hugging and kissing strange adults and children, and attempting to insert objects into their genitals. Abuse by fathers or stepfathers involving intercourse was associated with particularly marked sexual behavior disturbances. There was a subgroup of sexually abused girls who tended to force sexual activities on siblings and peers. All of these girls had experienced prolonged sexual abuse (more than 2 years) involving physical force which was perpetrated by a parent.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that sexual abuse in preadolescent girls is associated with sexual behavior problems.