Childhood Sex Abuse Impacts Adult Relationships

sures of childhood sexual abuse, childhood attachment to caregivers, adult attachment to partners, achievement, interpersonal functioning and adjustment.

Of the women surveyed, 68 percent had no history of sexual abuse; 22 percent had been fondled or touched against their will; 9 percent experienced attempted intercourse and 10 percent had experienced oral, vaginal or anal intercourse. Twenty-two percent had been subjected to exposure, which the researchers did not include as sexual abuse.

"These figures, which are fairly representative of the general population, indicate that sexual abuse is quite prevalent among children and young girls," said Feerick, who presented the findings at the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children Fourth National Colloquium in Chicago in June 1996. "Among college women, surveys report that up to 20 percent had been sexually abused as children. In our sample, most of the abuse was committed by people known to the child, rather than strangers, usually distant male relatives and male acquaintances."

Specifically, the researchers found that on measures of how safe and secure women feel in an intimate relationship, sexually abused women scored about half the average score of non-abused women.

"Although our sample consisted exclusively of college students and thus addresses adult attachment relationships among women who are relatively young, attachment styles tend to be trait-like and are not expected to change much as the women grow older," Feerick said.

On measures of trust, sexually abused women scored 10 points lower than non-abused women on a 108-point scale. Through statistical analyses, the researchers found this difference to be largely explained by the quality of adult attachment relationships.

And consistent with other studies, the researchers found no significant relationship between childhood sexual abuse and academic success and achievement.

The study was funded, in part, by the College

Contact: Susan Lang
Cornell University News Service

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