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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2009 Feb;77(1):127-37. doi: 10.1037/a0013475.

Childhood sexual abuse, stigmatization, internalizing symptoms, and the development of sexual difficulties and dating aggression.

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Center for Youth Relationship Development, The College of New Jersey, P.O. Box 7718, Ewing, NJ 08628, USA.


Potential pathways from childhood sexual abuse (CSA) to subsequent romantic intimacy problems were examined in a prospective longitudinal study of 160 ethnically diverse youth with confirmed CSA histories. Participants were interviewed at the time of abuse discovery, when they were 8-15 years of age, and again 1-6 years later. Stigmatization (abuse-specific shame and self-blame) and internalizing symptoms (posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms), more than abuse severity, explained which youth with CSA histories experienced more sexual difficulties and dating aggression. Stigmatization was found to operate as a predictive mechanism for subsequent sexual difficulties. Internalizing symptoms were not predictive of romantic intimacy problems, although they did show correlational relations with sexual difficulties and dating aggression. Early interventions such as trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy that target stigmatization may be important for preventing the development of sexual difficulties in CSA youth.

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