Emotional support and adult depression in survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Katherine L Musliner, Jonathan B Singer
Child Abuse & Neglect 2014, 38 (8): 1331-40
The goals of this study were to evaluate the effects of emotional support from friends and parents at two time points (adolescence and adulthood) on adult depression in a nationally representative sample of survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and examine whether the associations were moderated by the identity of the perpetrator (parent/caregiver vs. not). Data were taken from Waves I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The study sample included 1,238 Add Health participants with a history of CSA and an equivalently sized comparison group of individuals with no history of CSA. Parental support was measured using four items from each wave that assessed the warmth of participants' relationships with their parents and their satisfaction with those relationships. Friend support in adolescence was measured using participants' perceptions of how much their friends cared about them and in adulthood using participants' self-reported number of close friends. Depression was measured using a 10-item subscale of the CES-D. Logistic regressions showed that support from friends and parents in adulthood were significantly associated with lower odds of adult depression in CSA survivors who reported non-parent/caregiver abuse. Among survivors of parent/caregiver abuse, emotional support was not significantly associated with adult depression regardless of when or by whom it was provided. In conclusion, emotional support in adulthood from friends and parents is associated with reduced odds of adult depression in CSA survivors, but only in cases where the abuse was perpetrated by someone other than a parent or caregiver.


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