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J Interpers Violence. 2013 Feb;28(3):538-57. doi: 10.1177/0886260512455510. Epub 2012 Sep 7.

Predictors of relationship adjustment in female survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

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University of South Florida, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA.


The current study investigated: (1) the relationship between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and four relationship adjustment variables (consensus, cohesion, affection, and satisfaction); (2) whether finding meaning in CSA and using mature defenses would predict relationship adjustment; and (3) whether meaning and mature defenses would moderate the association between CSA severity and relationship adjustment. The sample consisted of 287 undergraduate women, 95 of whom reported a history of CSA. All participants were involved in a romantic relationship at the time of the study. Results indicated a significant relationship between CSA history and dyadic consensus, whereby abused women reported less agreement with their partners than nonabused women. In the abused sample, CSA severity significantly predicted affection and mature defenses significantly predicted both affection and consensus in relationships. Furthermore, mature defenses moderated the relationship between CSA severity and dyadic cohesion (i.e., joint activities with one's partner). Contrary to hypotheses, meaning was not related to relationship adjustment and did not moderate the association between CSA severity and relationship adjustment. These findings advance the CSA literature by elucidating factors that predict healthy adjustment to CSA.

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