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Psychol Med. 2000 Jan;30(1):41-52.

Early sexual abuse and lifetime psychopathology: a co-twin-control study.

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  • 1Finch University of Health Sciences Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Chicago Medical School, IL 60074-3095, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

This study was designed to determine lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders among twins who reported childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and to compare these rates with those among non-abused co-twins. The contribution of familial and individual-specific factors to reported sexual abuse was also examined.

METHOD:

Information about lifetime psychopathology and substance use was obtained by structured telephone interviews with 5995 Australian twins. Twins who reported a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) were contrasted on lifetime psychopathology with subjects without such a history; in addition, comparisons were made between same-sex twin pairs discordant for CSA.

RESULTS:

A history of CSA was reported by 5.9% of the women and 2.5% of the men. In the sample as a whole, those reporting CSA were more likely to receive lifetime diagnoses of major depression, conduct disorder, panic disorder and alcoholism, and were more likely to report suicidal ideation and a history of suicide attempt. Abused women, but not men, were also more likely to report social phobia. When comparisons were restricted to non-abused co-twins, no differences in psychopathology were seen. However, rates of major depression, conduct disorder and suicidal ideation were higher if both co-twins were abused than if the respondent alone reported CSA. Model-fitting indicated that shared environmental factors influenced risk for reported CSA in women, but not in men.

CONCLUSION:

The association between CSA and psychopathology arises at least in part through the influence of shared familial factors on both risk of victimization and risk of psychopathology.

PMID:
10722174
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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