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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Posttraumatic symptom profiles among adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse: A longitudinal study

Iris M Steine, Dagfinn Winje, Jens Christoffer Skogen, John H Krystal, Anne Marita Milde, Bjørn Bjorvatn, Inger Hilde Nordhus, Janne Grønli, Ståle Pallesen
Child Abuse & Neglect 2017, 67: 280-293
28327414
In the present study, our aim was to examine longitudinal posttraumatic stress symptom (PTSS) trajectories in a Norwegian sample of adults who had experienced sexual abuse during childhood, and to identify predictors of PTSS-trajectory belongingness. The sample consisted of 138 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (96.4% women, mean age=42.9years, mean age at the first abuse=5.9 years), recruited from support centers for sexual abuse survivors. The majority (78.3%) reported penetrative abuse, and a large proportion of the sample reported that the perpetrator was a biological parent (38.4%) or someone they trusted (76.1%), reflecting a high severity level of the abusive experiences. Latent Profile Analyses revealed the best overall fit for a two PTSS-trajectories model; one trajectory characterized by sub-clinical and decreasing level of PTSS (54.9%), and the other by high and slightly decreasing level of PTSS (45.1%). Increased odds for belonging to the trajectory with clinical level symptoms was found among those who reported higher levels of exposure to other types of childhood maltreatment (OR=3.69, p=0.002), sexual abuse enforced by physical violence (OR=3.04, p=0.003) or threats (OR=2.56, p=0.014), very painful sexual abuse (OR=2.73, p=0.007), or who had experienced intense anxiety, helplessness or fear during the abuse (OR=2.97, p=0.044). Those in the trajectory with clinical level PTSS reported lower levels of perceived social support and more relational difficulties compared to those in the sub-clinical PTSS trajectory. In conclusion, different longitudinal PTSS trajectories can be found among adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Significant predictors of PTSS-trajectory belongingness are discussed alongside their potential implications for preventive efforts and clinical interventions.

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