Typologies of Child Sexual Abuse: An Analysis of Multiple Abuse Acts Among a Large Sample of Danish Treatment-Seeking Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

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Abstract

Objective: The deleterious psychological effects of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) have been extensively documented in the research literature. A limitation of this research, however, has been a reliance on overly restrictive and limiting measurements of CSA. Researchers have most commonly referred to discrete instances of rape and molestation; however, evidence suggests that sexual abuse in childhood can include a wide array of acts and that individual survivors can endure many of these. Method: This study employed latent class analysis to identify homogeneous groups of adult CSA survivors characterized by similar typologies of sexual trauma within a large sample of Danish, treatment-seeking survivors of CSA and incest (N = 454). In total, 18 separate contact and noncontact abuse acts were modeled. Furthermore, the association between abuse-related variables (victim gender, the age at which the abuse started, duration of abuse, and perpetrator of abuse) and the resultant CSA groups, or classes, was estimated. Results: Four homogeneous CSA groups were identified: an intercourse group, a high-verbal/low-contact group, a high-sexual-contact group, and a sexual-touch group. Some of the groups were distinguishable from others in terms of the frequency of the abuse and the type of perpetrator identified. Conclusions: The results show that “typologies” of CSA may provide a useful way to describe complex patterns of abuse while also facilitating future investigations of CSA outcome and treatment need.

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