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Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 1991 Dec;5(6):331-40.

A comparative study among college students of sexual abuse in childhood.

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  • 1School of Nursing, University of Texas, Austin 78701.


A disproportionate random sample (200 women, 400 men) of students attending a major university was invited to participate in a mailed survey to study differences in self-efficacy, coping, and well-being between men and women who were sexually abused in childhood and those who were not. A total of 271 students (111 women, 160 men) responded by returning the completed survey. Fifty percent of the women and 22% of the men in the sample reported one or more unwanted sexual experiences in childhood. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) techniques to analyze differences in self-efficacy, coping (confrontive, emotive, palliative), and well-being between women and men who reported childhood sexual abuse and those who did not showed significant interaction effects by sex for abuse (F = 2.609, P = .025, df 5,263) and significant effects by sex (F = 3.356, P = .006), but no significant differences for abuse alone. Univariate F tests were significant (F = 5.386, P = .021) for palliative coping with abused men reporting the highest scores, abused and nonabused women having the highest scores on emotive coping (F = 9.049, P = .003), and nonabused men and women having highest scores on well-being (F = 7.276, P = .007). A second MANOVA was performed on data from 245 students (nonabused and those who reported contact sexual abuse). Significant interaction effects by sex for abuse (F = 2.259, P = 0.49, df 5,237) and main effects for abuse (F = 3.225, P = .008) were found. Although abused men scored lowest on well-being, both abused men and abused women scored higher on emotive coping and lower on well-being than nonabused subjects. These are new findings with implications for developing and testing nursing interventions for this vulnerable group of young adults.

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