JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mental health indicators fifty years later: A population-based study of men with histories of child sexual abuse

Scott D Easton, Jooyoung Kong
Child Abuse & Neglect 2017, 63: 273-283
27720219
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a widely acknowledged trauma that affects a substantial number of boys/men and has the potential to undermine mental health across the lifespan. Despite the topic's importance, few studies have examined the long-term effects of CSA on mental health in middle and late life for men. Most empirical studies on the effects of CSA have been conducted with women, non-probability samples, and samples of young or emerging adults with inadequate control variables. Based on complex trauma theory, the current study investigated: a) the effect of CSA on mental health outcomes (depressive symptoms, somatic symptom severity, hostility) in late life for men, and b) the moderating effects of childhood adversities and masculine norms in the relationship between CSA and the three mental health outcomes. Using a population-based sample from the 2004-2005 Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, multivariate analyses found that CSA was positively related to both depressive and somatic symptoms and increased the likelihood of hostility for men who reported a history of CSA. Both childhood adversities and masculine norms were positively related to the three outcomes for the entire sample. Among CSA survivors, childhood adversities exerted a moderating effect in terms of depressive symptoms. Mental health practitioners should include CSA and childhood adversities in assessment and treatment with men. To more fully understand the effects of CSA, future studies are needed that use longitudinal designs, compare male and female survivors, and examine protective mechanisms such as social support.

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