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Br J Psychiatry. 1991 Jul;159:115-22.

Early sexual abuse and clinical depression in adult life.

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  • 1Department of Social Policy & Social Science, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (University of London).


Sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence was studied in 286 working-class mothers living in Islington, who were contacted on three occasions over a two-year period. The sample was collected primarily to study current vulnerability factors in the onset of depression, but childhood measures were also included to look at longer-term risk factors. Twenty-five women - 9% of the sample - reported sexual abuse involving physical contact before age 17 and, of these, 64% had case depression in a three-year period (which included the year before first interview). While such abuse was related to other earlier stressful experiences such as parental indifference, violence to the child and institutional stay, it was associated with an increased risk of depression over and above these factors. Sexual abuse before age 17 also related to having been divorced/separated or never having married/cohabited.

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