What determines post-traumatic stress disorder symptomatology for survivors of childhood sexual abuse?

L Briggs, P R Joyce
Child Abuse & Neglect 1997, 21 (6): 575-82

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this paper was to ascertain which childhood abuse experiences are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).

METHOD: Seventy-three women attending a Family Health Counselling Service's Sexual Abuse Program were invited to participate in a study looking at the effectiveness of sexual abuse counselling. Initially, the women completed a series of self-report questionnaires including a measure of PTSD symptoms, and were interviewed about childhood abuse experiences.

RESULTS: PTSD symptoms were associated with higher levels of all psychopathology. However, more interestingly, the severity of PTSD symptoms was also associated with the extent of CSA which involved actual sexual intercourse. This association of repeated abuse involving sexual intercourse with PTSD symptoms was still significant (partial coefficient = .30, p, .000) even when controlling for general level of psychopathology.

CONCLUSIONS: One of the long-term effects of child sexual abuse (CSA) is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the women who reported multiple abusive episodes which involved sexual intercourse had increased symptoms of PTSD.

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