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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2009 Jul;37(5):727-37. doi: 10.1007/s10802-009-9300-x.

Posttraumatic stress symptoms and trajectories in child sexual abuse victims: an analysis of sex differences using the national survey of child and adolescent well-being.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. andreama@psych.upenn.edu

Abstract

Very few studies have prospectively examined sex differences in posttraumatic stress symptoms and symptom trajectories in youth victimized by childhood sexual abuse. This study addresses that question in a relatively large sample of children, drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, who were between the ages of 8-16 years and who were reported to Child Protective Services for alleged sexual abuse. Sex differences were examined using t tests, logistic regression, and latent trajectory modeling. Results revealed that there were not sex differences in victims' posttraumatic stress symptoms or trajectories. Whereas caseworkers substantiated girls' abuse at higher rates than boys' abuse and rated girls significantly higher than boys on level of harm, there were not sex differences in three more objective measures of abuse severity characteristics. Overall, higher caseworker ratings of harm predicted higher initial posttraumatic stress symptom levels, and substantiation status predicted shallower decreases in trauma symptoms over time. Implications for theory and intervention are discussed.

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