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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1994 Mar;182(3):145-50.

Effects of childhood trauma on psychological functioning in adults sexually abused as children.

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  • 1National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, C. Henry Kempe National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver 80206.


Standardized symptom measures were used to determine the effect of childhood trauma experiences on adults sexually victimized as children. One hundred eighty-eight sexually abused individuals were tested for mean scores for depression, self-esteem, general levels of trauma symptoms, sexual dysfunction, posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and dissociation. Childhood traumatic experiences (parents fighting, physical abuse by father or by mother, other childhood traumas) of a nonsexual nature correlated with increased symptom levels and accounted for significant changes in percentage of variance ranging from 5.2% (general trauma symptoms) to 12.3% (posttraumatic stress disorder). Even after controlling for nonsexual-abuse trauma, sexual trauma in childhood continued to contribute significantly to increased adult symptom levels. Variables tested included number of perpetrators; incest; age of first abuse; whether force, bribes, or threats were used by the perpetrator; and penetration. The use of force was the single most significant individual sexual abuse variable. Sexual abuse as a whole contributed significantly to all the symptom measures with the most change in variance noted for dissociation (20.5%). Gender contributed significant differences only for sexual dysfunction when men scored significantly worse.

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