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Childhood Sexual Abuse, Adolescent Sexual Behaviors and Sexual Revictimization

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 21 Issue: 8 Dated: August 1997 Pages: 789-803
David M. Fergusson; L. John Horwood; Michael T. Lynskey
Date Published
August 1997
15 pages
Data from a birth cohort of 520 young women born in New Zealand formed the basis of an analysis of the extent to which exposure to childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased rates of sexual risk-taking behaviors and sexual revictimization during adolescence.
The research studied the participants at regular intervals from birth to age 18 and gathered retrospective reports of child sexual abuse when the participants were age 18. Over the course of the 18 years the research also gathered information on childhood, family, and related circumstances. Young women who reported child sexual abuse, especially severe child sexual abuse involving intercourse, had significantly higher rates of early-onset consensual sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, multiple sexual partners, unprotected intercourse, sexually transmitted disease, and sexual assault after age 16. Logistic regression analyses suggested that the association between child sexual abuse and sexual outcomes in adolescence arose by two routes. First, exposure to child sexual abuse was associated with a series of childhood and family factors, including social disadvantage, family instability, impaired parent-child relationships, and parental adjustment difficulties that were also associated with increased sexual vulnerability n adolescence. Second, a causal chain relationship appeared to link childhood sexual abuse and sexual experiences in that childhood sexual abuse was associated with early-onset sexual activity, which, in turn, led to heightened risk of other adverse outcomes in adolescence. Findings suggested that those exposed to childhood sexual abuse have greater sexual vulnerability during adolescence. Tables and 47 references (Author abstract modified)