Effects of childhood trauma on psychological functioning in adults sexually abused as children

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1994 Mar;182(3):145-50. doi: 10.1097/00005053-199403000-00003.


Standardized symptom measures were used to determine the effect of childhood trauma experiences on adults sexually victimized as children. One hundred eighty-eight sexually abused individuals were tested for mean scores for depression, self-esteem, general levels of trauma symptoms, sexual dysfunction, posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and dissociation. Childhood traumatic experiences (parents fighting, physical abuse by father or by mother, other childhood traumas) of a nonsexual nature correlated with increased symptom levels and accounted for significant changes in percentage of variance ranging from 5.2% (general trauma symptoms) to 12.3% (posttraumatic stress disorder). Even after controlling for nonsexual-abuse trauma, sexual trauma in childhood continued to contribute significantly to increased adult symptom levels. Variables tested included number of perpetrators; incest; age of first abuse; whether force, bribes, or threats were used by the perpetrator; and penetration. The use of force was the single most significant individual sexual abuse variable. Sexual abuse as a whole contributed significantly to all the symptom measures with the most change in variance noted for dissociation (20.5%). Gender contributed significant differences only for sexual dysfunction when men scored significantly worse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / complications*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Disorders / epidemiology
  • Dissociative Disorders / etiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incest
  • Income
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology