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Child Abuse Negl. 2011 Nov;35(11):946-55. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.06.003. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

Associations between child sexual abuse and negative sexual experiences and revictimization among women: does measuring severity matter?

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  • 1Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles, CA 90024-1759, USA.


Women with histories of child sexual abuse (CSA) are more likely than those without such experiences to report a variety of negative sexual outcomes. This study examines the explanatory power of a CSA summed composite versus dichotomous (presence/absence) measurement in predicting a comprehensive negative sexual behavior outcome. Study participants were obtained from a community based sample examining women's sexual decision-making. The continuous CSA measurement reflects cumulative histories of CSA through a composite score capturing abuse specific characteristics. Using a cross-validation approach, the sample (n=835) was randomly split and the explanatory power of each measure was examined through a series of multiple linear regressions comparing model fit indexes and performing a formal likelihood ratio test of one model against another. All CSA measures explained a similar percentage of variance but overall the CSA summed composite explained the data significantly better in terms predicting negative sexual experiences and revictimization than a binary measure as demonstrated with the likelihood ratio test. The results were replicated by cross-validating the predictive power of the CSA composite score between the split samples. Consistency of CSA regression estimates for the summed composite between training and validation samples were also confirmed. Given the superiority of the CSA summed composites over the binary variable, we recommend using this measure when examining associations between CSA histories and negative sexual experiences and revictimization.

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