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Child sexual abuse and emotional and behavioral problems in adolescence: gender differences.

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Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Leiden, The Netherlands.



To compare sexually abused boys with sexually abused girls and with their non-sexually abused counterparts with regard to (1) the type of mental health problems they experience; and (2) the number and patterns of such problems.


The sample comprised 745 secondary school students, aged 12 to 19 years, with a self-reported history of sexual abuse (151 boys and 594 girls) and 745 matched students without such a history. Sexually abused and non-sexually abused boys and girls were compared with regard to four problem categories: emotional problems, aggressive/criminal behaviors, addiction-risk behaviors, and suicidality.


A larger proportion of sexually abused adolescents than nonabused adolescents reported problems in the separate categories and in a combination of problem categories. Sexually abused boys had considerably more emotional and behavioral problems, including suicidality, than their female counterparts. There were differences between the specific combinations of problem categories reported by sexually abused girls and boys. These differences could not be attributed to the finding that sexually abused boys were more often the victim of concurrent physical abuse than sexually abused girls.


The results suggest that although there was a strong association between being sexually abused and the existence of a multiple problem pattern in both sexes, the aftermath for boys might be even worse or more complex than for girls.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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