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Child Abuse Negl. 1997 Aug;21(8):769-87.

Prevalence, characteristics, and impact of childhood sexual abuse in a Southwestern American Indian tribe.

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Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD, USA.



There were two objectives; first, to investigate the prevalence and characteristics of child sexual abuse in an American Indian community, and second, to determine whether persons with histories of child sexual abuse are at greater risk to develop psychiatric disorders and behavioral problems than persons who report no such history.


A sample of 582 Southwestern American Indian tribal members was collected for a genetic and linkage study on alcoholism and psychiatric disorders in three large and interrelated pedigrees. Subjects were recruited from the community without knowledge of their clinical histories or those of their relatives. Child sexual abuse and psychiatric disorders were assessed using a semi-structured psychiatric interview.


Females were more likely to be sexually abused as children (49%) than were males (14%). Intrafamilial members accounted for 78% of the reported child sexual abuse. Sexually abused males and females were more likely to report childhood and adult behavioral problems than were nonabused subjects. There was a strong relationship between multiple psychiatric disorders and child sexual abuse, with sexually abused males and females more likely to be diagnosed with > or = 3 psychiatric disorders, both including and excluding alcohol dependence or abuse, than were nonabused subjects.


Child sexual abuse in this population is both an index of family dysfunction and community disorganization as well as a predictor of later behavioral patterns and psychopathology.

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