Differential Relationships Between Childhood and Adolescent Sexual Victimization and Cognitive–Affective Sexual Appraisals

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Abstract

Objective:

The aim of the current study is to examine the potential differential relationships between sexual victimization occurring in different developmental stages (i.e., in childhood, adolescence, or both stages) and cognitive–affective sexual appraisals (i.e., sexual self-schemas, sexual self-esteem, and erotophobia–erotophilia).

Method:

The sample included 710 college women who completed surveys for course credit.

Results:

Results indicated that a history of childhood sexual abuse was uniquely related to lower control sexual self-esteem, whereas history of adolescent sexual assault was uniquely related to greater erotophilia and more positive romantic/passionate sexual self-schema, yet lower control, attractiveness, and moral/judgment sexual self-esteem. However, an experience of both childhood sexual abuse and adolescent sexual abuse was not significantly related to any cognitive–affective sexual appraisals. Childhood psychological abuse was also uniquely related to more open/direct sexual self-schema and greater erotophilia, yet lower attractiveness sexual self-esteem.

Conclusions:

Results suggest that identification of the developmental stage during which sexual abuse is experienced is an important variable to assess for in relation to affective components of sexuality and may have implications for treatment of sexual assault survivors. For example, women with a history of adolescent sexual assault may benefit from acceptance-based techniques focusing on core dimensions of self-esteem related to their sexuality.

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