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Am J Psychiatry. 1995 Sep;152(9):1336-42.

Sexual abuse in childhood and deliberate self-harm.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.



The authors investigated the association between sexual abuse in childhood and subsequent incidents of deliberate self-harm in women.


A random community sample of women (N = 252) that reported having been sexually abused as children was interviewed and compared to a similarly sized group (N = 225) that did not report abuse. The subgroup of women sexually abused as children who reported subsequent incidents of deliberate self-harm was then contrasted with abused women who did not report self-harm.


There was a clear statistical association between sexual abuse in childhood and self-harm that was most marked in those subjected to more intrusive and more frequent abuse. Self-harm was also associated with major interpersonal problems in the subject's family of origin and with becoming involved in further abusive relationships as an adult.


Sexual abuse in childhood is associated with later incidents of deliberate self-harm and may well be an etiologic factor in its development.

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