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Sexual self-schemas of female child sexual abuse survivors: relationships with risky sexual behavior and sexual assault in adolescence

Ashley F Niehaus, Joan Jackson, Stephanie Davies
Archives of Sexual Behavior 2010, 39 (6): 1359-74
20229148
Childhood sexual trauma has been demonstrated to increase survivors' risk for engaging in unrestricted sexual behaviors and experiencing adolescent sexual assault. The current study used the sexual self-schema construct to examine cognitive representations of sexuality that might drive these behavioral patterns. In Study 1 (N = 774), we attempted to improve the content validity of the Sexual Self Schema Scale for child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors, introducing a fourth sexual self-schema factor titled the "immoral/irresponsible" factor. In Study 2 (N = 1150), the potential differences in sexual self-views, as assessed by the four sexual self-schema factors, between CSA survivors and non-victims were explored. In addition, Study 2 evaluated how these sexual self-schema differences may contribute to participation in unrestricted sexual behaviors and risk for sexual assault in adolescence. Results indicated that a history of CSA impacted the way women viewed themselves as a sexual person on each of the four factors. CSA survivors were found to view themselves as more open and possessing more immoral/irresponsible cognitions about sexuality as compared to women who did not have a CSA history. In addition, the CSA survivors endorsed less embarrassment and passionate/romantic views of their sexual selves. The interaction of CSA severity and the sexual self-schemas explained variance in adolescent sexual assault experiences above and beyond the severity of CSA history and participation in risky sexual behaviors. The findings suggest that sexual self-views may serve to moderate the relationship between CSA and adolescent sexual assault. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.

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