Date Approved

4-21-2008

Date Posted

12-15-2009

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Norman Gordon, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Amy Young, Ph.D., co-Chair

Committee Member

Karen Saules, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Todd, Ph.D.

Abstract

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a significant social problem that has gained increased recognition since the 1980s. The increased attention has led to a substantial body of research that documents both the high prevalence and pervasive effects of CSA. CSA is associated with a wide range of adulthood psychopathology, including major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, substance use, suicidal behavior, alterations in self-concept, and disruptions in interpersonal relatedness (Beichtman, Zucker, Hood, DaCosta & Cassavia, 1992; Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Cole & Putnam, 1992; Polusny & Follette, 1995; Russell, 1986; Wilson, 2006). Sexually abused children are also at a higher risk for experiencing social anxiety during adolescence due to the shame and guilt that characterize CSA sequelae (Feiring, Rosenthal & Taska, 2000; Wilson, 2006). However, little is known about the impact of these problems on adulthood adjustment. This study investigated the impact of adolescent social anxiety at age 14 on adulthood adjustment among sexually abused girls by focusing on three study aims. First, a range of indicators of adulthood adjustment were compared between sexually abused and non-abused girls, including depression, self-esteem, problematic alcohol use, alcohol risk behavior, relationship satisfaction, friendship satisfaction, violence in relationships, relationship characteristics, age at first voluntary sexual intercourse, and frequency of unprotected sex. Second, the relationship between CSA and adolescent social anxiety at age 14 was evaluated. Third, adolescent social anxiety was assessed as both a mediator and a moderator between CSA and adulthood outcomes. Results suggest that CSA is associated with increased depression at age 28, lower self-esteem at age 28, lower alcohol risk behavior at age 28, higher frequency of unprotected sex at age 24, and younger age at first voluntary sexual intercourse. Severity of CSA experiences demonstrated a significant, albeit small, relationship to adolescent social anxiety at age 14. Finally, adolescent social anxiety at age 14 was supported as a mediator between CSA and adulthood depression at age 28 and self-esteem at age 28. Data for this study were drawn from a larger 17-year community-based longitudinal study, the Michigan Study of Adolescent and Adult Life Transitions (MSALT).

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