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Child Abuse Negl. 2009 Aug;33(8):533-44. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.09.014. Epub 2009 Sep 19.

Child sexual abuse consequences in community samples of Latino and European American adolescents.

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  • 1University of Southern California, Department of Education, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Research investigating the impact of child sexual abuse (CSA) in community samples of adolescents has been limited. This study aims to identify sexual abuse among ethnically diverse high school adolescents of both genders and evaluate their psycho-emotional consequences.

METHOD:

Through the use of self-report instruments, a sample of 223 Latino and European American 16-19-year-old high school students were identified as either victims of CSA or as nonabused. The emotional impact of sexual abuse was also investigated among these ethnically diverse adolescent males and females.

RESULTS:

Initial findings revealed that those adolescents who gave inconsistent responses to CSA assessments questions were much more similar in patterns of psychological distress to CSA victims compared to nonabused teenagers. Prevalence analyses revealed that females (45%) were nearly two times more likely to report CSA than males (24%). Latinos (44%) were significantly more likely to experience CSA compared to European Americans (27%), and Latinas (54%) had the highest prevalence overall. Other findings indicated substantial differences in type of perpetrator. While female victims of CSA identified male perpetrators in 91.9% of cases, male victims of CSA identified female perpetrators in 52.9% of cases. Consistent with past research, sexually abused adolescents reported significantly greater psychological distress than their nonabused peers, regardless of gender or ethnic group. Gender differences emerged with females reporting greater psychological symptoms, but these differences were substantially reduced when CSA was controlled. European Americans reported greater anxious arousal symptoms compared to Latinos.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings suggest that the prevalence of CSA among adolescents is higher than existing research has noted for both males and females and particularly higher for Latinos compared to European Americans. Perpetration by females upon males may also be higher than research has noted. Our findings also revealed many ethnic and gender similarities and fewer differences in the psychological impact and circumstances of sexual abuse in this diverse sample of adolescents.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS:

The high prevalence of CSA among adolescent males and particularly Latinas emphasize the need to intervene on a community level and with parents for both prevention and intervention regarding issues of sexual victimization. The numbers of female perpetrators, especially when boys are the targets of abuse, may be higher than previously imagined and thus must be assessed tactfully and thoroughly. This study found that adolescents who reported CSA inconsistently had similar symptoms as those with confirmed CSA and therefore warrant greater attention and more persistent intervention. When treating victims of CSA, the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI) is effective in identifying specific areas of emotional distress to treat in sexually abused ethnically diverse male and female adolescents. Culturally relevant prevention efforts are needed for ethnically diverse children of both genders.

PMID:
19767101
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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