By David Lee on October 20, 2009 · tagged as , , ,

Child sexual abuse and future intimate partner violence

It is complicated examining the relationship between early childhood trauma and abuse in future relationships.  We do know about the profound impact of early trauma; and, at the same time, we recognize that being abused as a child does not condemn everyone to becoming abused as an adult.

Recently I was looking at some public service announcements that said, in effect, child who witness abuse are condemned to repeat it. This conclusion is overly simplistic and problematic for a public service announcement.  While research can show risk factors, the presence of those risk factors does not necessarily mean it causes the future behavior.

Yet, I still want to examine the research to think about what issues should be addressed in our prevention programs.  Sometimes, I have to be somewhat skeptical of the research.

The journal Child Abuse & Neglect has recently ePublished an article titled Men’s and women’s childhood sexual abuse and victimization in adult partner relationships: A study of risk factors based on a large sample of Canadians. This study found an association only for women, and then concludes the need to teach at-risk women about protective strategies. I am not opposed to this, but it seems an incomplete strategy for prevention.

The full citation and abstract from SafetyLit follow the jump.

Men’s and women’s childhood sexual abuse and victimization in adult partner relationships: A study of risk factors.

Daigneault I, Hebert M, McDuff P. Child Abuse & Neglect 2009; ePublished October 6, 2009.

Click here to see the article from the journal website or from the DOI.

(Copyright © 2009, Elsevier Publishing)

OBJECTIVES: (1) Document the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), childhood physical assault, psychological, physical and sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) in a nationally representative sample. (2) Assess the predictive value of CSA and other characteristics of the respondents and their current partners as potential risk factors for IPV. (3) Assess factors predicting IPV in adulthood in a subsample of women reporting CSA.

METHODS: The role of CSA as a risk factor for adult IPV was examined using data from the 1999 Canadian General Social Survey. A national stratified sample of 9170 women and 7823 men with current or previous partners were interviewed by telephone by Statistics Canada. Multiple logistic regressions were used.

RESULTS: CSA consistently predicted IPV for women and men, although this relationship was weaker for men. Age, current marital status and limitations due to physical or mental condition or chronic illness were also predictors of IPV for men and women. For women reporting CSA, age (being younger) or being in a more recent relationship and being limited due to either physical, mental conditions or chronic illness were predictive of adult victimization.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that CSA is associated with a greater risk of IPV beyond sociodemographic risk factors.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: To prevent IPV in women already at risk because of CSA, education about protective strategies seems important, particularly for women with physical or mental limitations, in the beginning stages of intimate relationships or for women with partners who drink excessively.

David Lee

More Posts by David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project PreventConnect, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 27 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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