Childhood sexual abuse and psychiatric disorder in young adulthood: I. Prevalence of sexual abuse and factors associated with sexual abuse

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1996 Oct;35(10):1355-64. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199610000-00023.


Objective: To present accounts of the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and social, family, and related factors that are associated with increased risk of CSA, using data gathered during an 18-year longitudinal study of a New Zealand birth cohort.

Method: A birth cohort of more than 1,000 children born in Christchurch (New Zealand) was studied prospectively to the age of 16 years. At age 18, retrospective reports of CSA were obtained.

Results: Of the cohort, 10.4% (17.3% of females and 3.4% of males) reported having experienced CSA before the age of 16 years. Rates of severe abusive experiences involving intercourse were lower: 5.6% of females and 1.4% of males reported abuse involving attempted or completed intercouse. Multivariate analyses that the risk of CSA was elevated among females (p < .0001), those exposed to high levels of marital conflict (p < .005), those reporting low parental attachment (p < .001), those reporting high levels of paternal overprotection (p < .005), and those with parents who reported alcoholism/alcohol problems (p < .05). The level of prediction of CSA from childhood and family factors was not sufficient to identify individuals at risk of CSA with any degree of accuracy.

Conclusions: CSA was not an uncommon experience in this cohort. Those most likely to be exposed to CSA were girls reared in families in families characterized by high levels of marital conflict and impaired parenting and in families having parents with adjustment problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • New Zealand
  • Personality Development*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors