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Arch Sex Behav. 2012 Dec;41(6):1363-77. doi: 10.1007/s10508-011-9897-z. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

Mediators of the relation between childhood sexual abuse and women's sexual risk behavior: a comparison of two theoretical frameworks.

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  • 1Center for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA. tsenn@syr.edu

Abstract

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with sexual risk behavior in adulthood, but little research has investigated processes that might mediate this relation. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether constructs suggested by the traumagenic dynamics (TD) model (a theory of the effects of CSA) or constructs suggested by the information-motivation-behavioral skills (IMB) model (a theory of the antecedents of sexual risk behavior) better mediated the relation between CSA and sexual risk behavior in adulthood. Participants were 481 women attending a sexually transmitted infection clinic (66% African American) who completed a computerized survey as well as behavioral simulations assessing condom application and sexual assertiveness skills. Forty-five percent of the sample met criteria for CSA and CSA was associated with sexual risk behavior in adulthood. In multiple mediator models, the TD constructs mediated the relation between CSA and the number of sexual partners whereas the IMB constructs mediated the relation between CSA and unprotected sex. In addition, the TD constructs better mediated the relation between CSA and the number of sexual partners; the TD and IMB constructs did not differ in their ability to mediate the relation between CSA and unprotected sex. Sexual risk reduction interventions for women who were sexually abused should target not only the constructs from health behavior models (e.g., motivation and skills to reduce sexual risk), but also constructs that are specific to sexual abuse (e.g., traumatic sexualization and guilt).

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