Immediate and long-term impacts of child sexual abuse

Future Child. Summer-Fall 1994;4(2):54-69.


Research conducted over the past decade indicates that a wide range of psychological and interpersonal problems are more prevalent among those who have been sexually abused than among individuals with no such experiences. Although a definitive causal relationship between such difficulties and sexual abuse cannot be established using current retrospective research methodologies, the aggregate of consistent findings in this literature has led many to conclude that childhood sexual abuse is a major risk factor for a variety of problems. This article summarizes what is currently known about these potential impacts of child sexual abuse. The various problems and symptoms described in the literature on child sexual abuse are reviewed in a series of broad categories including posttraumatic stress, cognitive distortions, emotional pain, avoidance, an impaired sense of self, and interpersonal difficulties. Research has demonstrated that the extent to which a given individual manifests abuse-related distress is a function of an undetermined number of abuse-specific variables, as well as individual and environmental factors that existed prior to, or occurred subsequent to, the incidents of sexual abuse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Dissociative Disorders / etiology
  • Ego
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology