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The Role of Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Development of Alcoholism in Women

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The effects of childhood sexual abuse on the development of alcoholism in women were examined by comparing a sample of 45 alcoholic women selected from local treatment agencies and Alcoholics Anonymous groups with a group of 40 nonalcoholic women selected randomly from a household population. Face-to-face interview schedules were administered to both samples. Sexual abuse was defined as any unwanted sexual contact with a person at least five years older than the respondent, or with any family relative, regardless of age difference. Types of sexual contact included both nonphysical contact (e.g., invitations, exposure) and physical contact (e.g., fondling, intercourse). Results showed that alcoholic women were more likely to have experienced sexual abuse, had a greater number of different types of sexual abuse experiences, and endured sexual abuse over a longer period than the comparison group. The presence of any childhood sexual abuse experience was sufficient to discriminate between the alcoholic women and the comparison group, even controlling for demographic variables and the presence of a parent with alcohol-related problems. Although alcoholic women were more likely to report that a parent had alcohol-related problems, relatively few of the sexual abuse incidents were perpetrated by a parent. The data suggest that vulnerabilities to sexual abuse were attributable to environmental or psychological factors in homes in which a parent was reported as having alcohol-related problems.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: 1: Research Institute on Alcoholism, New York State Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, Buffalo. 2: School of Social Work, State University of New York at Buffalo.

Publication date: January 1, 1987

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