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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1994 Nov;182(11):618-24.

Reactions to disclosure of childhood sexual abuse. The effect on adult symptoms.

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National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, C. Henry Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, Denver, Colorado.


This study examines the effect disclosing childhood sexual abuse had on adult psychological functioning as measured on symptom checklists. One hundred eighty-eight adults filled out questionnaires regarding childhood trauma experiences and the reaction they received from the first person they told of their sexual abuse, and symptom checklists measuring depression, trauma symptoms, posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and dissociation. Data were analyzed using multiple regression analysis and path modeling. Those who told in childhood (N = 66) reported a significantly worse reaction to disclosing abuse than individuals who waited until adulthood (N = 112). For those who told in childhood, primarily to close family members, reaction to disclosure had a mediating effect between childhood abuse and adult symptoms, with those experiencing a bad reaction from the first person told having worse scores on general trauma symptoms, posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and dissociation. These results support other studies showing childhood sexual abuse to be associated with adult psychological symptoms. It also suggests the importance of the reaction received from family members responding to disclosure of abuse as a contributor to adult psychopathology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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