Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Sexual Assault among Emerging Adults: Exploring the Roles of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms, Emotion Regulation, and Anger


Child sexual abuse (CSA) has been previously linked with a risk for adult sexual assault (ASA) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Yet, the relations between CSA, ASA, and other psychological outcomes that may contribute to increased risk for ASA are less clear. This study aims to: 1) examine the links between CSA and ASA and potential risk factors (i.e., PTSS, emotion dysregulation, anger), 2) determine whether there are indirect effects between CSA and ASA through each factor, and 3) investigate whether there are indirect effects between CSA and ASA through the DSM-5 posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom clusters. The sample included 567 undergraduates (Mage = 20.84, SD = 4.10; 81.1% women; 56.6% white) from two universities. Both CSA and ASA were related to PTSS, emotion dysregulation, and anger. There were indirect effects of CSA on ASA through PTSS and anger (B = .04, B = .01, respectively). CSA was associated with each of the PTSD symptom clusters, but only marked alterations in arousal and reactivity were linked with ASA (B = .01). The clusters had no indirect effects on the relation between CSA and ASA. These findings revealed several factors that may be linked with increased risk for sexual victimization.

Publication Title

Journal of Child Sexual Abuse