Childhood exposure to sexual abuse and partnership outcomes at age 30
David M Fergusson; L John Horwood; Michael T Lynskey
Background: In this study, 30-year longitudinal data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) were used to examine the associations between childhood exposure to sexual abuse and intimate relationship outcomes at age 30. In addition, a broad range of early childhood and family confounding factors were tested, and the role of intervening factors from adolescence was explored.Method The investigation analyzed data from a birth cohort of over 900 New Zealand adults studied to the age of 30. At ages 18 and 21 cohort members reported on any exposure to sexual abuse prior to age 16. This information, along with prospective data gathered in childhood and adolescence, was used to predict partnership outcomes at age 30.Results After adjustment for early childhood and family factors, exposure to more severe forms of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) was associated with earlier and more frequent cohabitation, higher rates of perpetrated interpartner violence (IPV), and early parenthood, lower relationship satisfaction and investment. Several factors from adolescence partially or fully mediated these associations, notably a history of early consensual sexual intercourse, higher number of sexual partnerships, substance abuse problems, and self-esteem. After adjustment for intervening factors, exposure to CSA remained significantly associated with IPV.Conclusions The findings support a causal chain process, whereby early childhood and family factors place some individuals at risk for CSA. The extent of CSA exposure is related to adolescent risk taking, which in turn leads to early and more frequent cohabitation, risk of IPV, and lower relationship satisfaction and investment.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Rights Statement: This version in OUR Archive is the author's manuscript accepted for publication after peer-review. The published version is: Friesen, M. D., Woodward, L. J., Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2010). Childhood exposure to sexual abuse and partnership outcomes at age 30. Psychological Medicine, 40, 679-688. doi: 10.1017/S0033291709990389
Keywords: Psychology; Psychiatry
Research Type: Journal Article