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Predictors of attributions of self-blame and internalizing behavior problems in sexually abused children

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The purpose of the present study was to identify predictors of two potential sequelae of child sexual abuse, self-blame attributions and internalizing behavior problems. Methods:

In the study, detailed information was collected on 218 victims of sexual abuse aged 4 to 17, involved in criminal cases, about their background, the abuse, and their mother's reaction following discovery of the abuse. Results:

Increased attributions of self-blame were predicted by the child having a close relationship with the perpetrator, experiencing severe sexual abuse (e.g., long-lasting abuse that involved penetration), perceiving the abuse as disgusting, and coping with the abuse by pretending it was not happening. Similar factors did not emerge as predictors of internalizing behavior problems. Conclusions:

Results suggest that different child and abuse characteristics predict the two sequelae often associated with childhood sexual abuse. Thus, although self-blame attributions and behavior problems are often considered similar consequences of sexual abuse, there appears a need to distinguish the two types of outcomes following sexual victimization in childhood.
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Keywords: Child sexual abuse; consequences; internalizing symptoms; self-blame

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Irvine, USA; 2: University of California, Davis, USA; 3: Park Hospital for Children, University of Oxford, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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