A case-control study of the sequelae of childhood sexual assault in adult psychiatric patients

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Abstract

Objective: To determine if there is any association between childhood sexual assault and maladaptive coping behaviour in adult life. Design: A case-control study. Setting and patients: Data from 707 psychiatric patients consecutively examined by one psychiatrist in a rural practice were analysed. Forty-four female patients who were victims of childhood sexual assault were identified and were age matched in a random manner with 88 control patients who denied being sexually assaulted as children. Results: The two groups were similar in occupational level, employment and marital status, and the only diagnostic difference between them was that there was a trend in the sexually assaulted group for more of these patients to be diagnosed as having personality disorder. On a variety of other outcome factors, however, the two groups differed widely. The sexually assaulted women were more frequently victims of domestic violence (odds ratio [OR], 6.4), made suicide attempts (OR, 3.4) and abused alcohol (OR, 3.0) or tranquillisers (OR, 4.6) more often than the non-assaulted women. There was a definite association between childhood sexual assault and maladaptive coping behaviour in adult life, although the association is not necessarily causal, and the childhood sexual assault may, in fact, be a symptom of familial neglect. Conclusion: This study provides clear evidence of the need to follow up victims of childhood sexual assault and reinforces the importance of enquiring about this trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-411
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Volume160
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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