What Effects Does Child Sexual Abuse Have On Adult Life?

15301376636_8ace6d2f1eThe title of this post is quite broad, and so is the study we’re discussing. It’s an ambitious task: to look at a broad array of adult roles and see which ones are the most likely to be affected by historic child sexual abuse, and what the effects are.

The research was conducted through a literature review of studies published since 1980. De Jong et al looked at the fulfilment of adult roles such as marriage, employment and parenting, with a focus on whether – and to what extent – a history of sexual abuse had an effect on people’s psychological and physical functioning in these roles.

Perhaps surprisingly, the results were not entirely straightforward. The attainment of the roles per se wasn’t significantly affected by the abuse suffered in childhood; however, the quality of these adult roles was affected.

I’d be interested to read the full study, as I’d like to know how the researchers are defining ‘quality’, but it’s behind a paywall so unfortunately I can’t access it. I am intrigued though, and I think it’s certainly an interesting area of study – there’s no doubt that child sexual abuse has some effect on adulthood, but it’s interesting that it tends to affect the quality of life rather than its generic categories.

Apparently the most consistent findings showed a link between child sexual abuse and physical intimate partner violence in adulthood. In other words, people who were sexually abused as children are more likely to end up with a partner who abuses them physically. This isn’t entirely surprising and tallies with my own prior research, but I’d be interested in looking a bit more closely at this link and trying to get to the reasons behind it.

The study is published in Aggression and Violent Behaviour and will be available online from the 2nd of May 2015.

photo credit: Sometimes… via photopin (license)

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