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Child Abuse Negl. 2014 Feb;38(2):317-25. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.10.001. Epub 2013 Nov 5.

Child sexual abuse and subsequent relational and personal functioning: the role of parental support.

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Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada.
University of Southern California, USA.
Université Laval, Québec, Canada.
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada.


This study examined the role of nonoffending parental support in the relationship between child sexual abuse (CSA) and later romantic attachment, psychiatric symptoms, and couple adjustment. Of 348 adults engaged in stable romantic relationship, 59 (17%) reported sexual abuse. In this subgroup, 14% (n=8) reported parental intervention after the abuse was disclosed (i.e., support), 15% (n=9) reported a lack of parental intervention after abuse disclosure (i.e., nonsupport), and 71% (n=42) reported that their nonabusive parent(s) was(were) unaware of their abuse. Results indicated that, compared to other groups, CSA survivors with nonsupportive parents reported higher levels of anxious attachment, psychological symptoms, and dyadic maladjustment. In contrast, CSA survivors with supportive parent(s) expressed psychological and couple adjustment equivalent to non-abused participants, and lower attachment avoidance, relative to all other groups. Path analysis revealed that insecure attachment completely mediated the relationship between perceived parental support after CSA and later psychosocial outcomes. An actor-partner interdependence model showed different patterns for men and women and highlighted the importance of considering relational dynamics in dyads of CSA survivors. Overall, the results suggest that perceived parental support serves as a protective factor among those exposed to CSA.


Attachment; Child sexual abuse; Couple adjustment; Parental support; Psychological; Symptoms

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