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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;17(2):93-8. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Risk indicators and psychopathology in traumatised children and adolescents with a history of sexual abuse.

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MRC Research Unit for Anxiety and Stress, Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch, Tygerberg, Cape Town 7505, South Africa.



Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is widespread amongst South African (SA) children, yet data on risk factors and psychiatric consequences are limited and mixed.


Traumatised children and adolescents referred to our Youth Stress Clinic were interviewed to obtain demographic, sexual abuse, lifetime trauma and psychiatric histories.


Data for 94 participants (59 female, 35 male; mean age 14.25 [8.25-19] years) exposed to at least one lifetime trauma were analysed. Sexual abuse was reported in 53% of participants (42.56% females, 10.63% males) with 64% of violations committed by perpetrators known to them. Multinomial logistic regression analysis revealed female gender (P=0.002) and single-parent families (P=0.01) to be significant predictors of CSA (62.5%). CSA did not predict exposure to other traumas. Sexually abused children had significantly higher physical and emotional abuse subscale scores and total CTQ scores than non-abused children. Depression (33%, X(2)=10.89, P=0.001) and PTSD (63.8%, X(2)=4.79, P=0.034) were the most prevalent psychological consequences of trauma and both were significantly associated with CSA.


High rates of CSA predicted high rates of PTSD in this traumatised sample. Associations we found appear consistent with international studies of CSA and, should be used to focus future social awareness, prevention and treatment strategies in developing countries.

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