Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Adulthood

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Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Adulthood

Child abuse is a serious issue in today's society. Many people have been victims of child abuse. There are three forms of child abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual. Many researchers believe that sexual abuse is the most detremental of the three. A middle-aged adult who is feeling depressed will probably not relate it back to his childhood, but maybe he should. The short-term effects of childhood sexual abuse have been proven valid, but now the question is, do the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse affect middle-aged adults? Many contradicting views arise from the subject of childhood sexual abuse. Researchers and psychologists argue on this issue. Childhood sexual abuse has the potential to damage a child physically, emotionally, and behaviorally for the rest of his or her childhood, and the effects have been connected to lasting into middle-aged adulthood.

Research has been conducted on what type of children are the most at risk of being sexually abused. Childhood abuse has a greater chance of happening to children of certain backgrounds. One researcher states that "Child sexual abuse occurs more frequently in children from socially deprived and disorganized family backgrounds. Marital dysfunction, as evidenced by parental separation and domestic violence, is associated with higher risks of child sexual abuse" (Mullen 4). Mullen goes on to state that "The possibility has been raised that characteristics such as physical attractiveness, temperament, or physical maturity might increase the risks of children being sexually abused" (4).

Many researchers link behavioral problems in adulthood to childhood abuse. One researcher says that "An adult who was sexually abused as a child has a greater chance of becoming violent, suicidal, and abusive to their children than an adult who was not abused sexually as a child" (Kliest 155). These characteristics could hinder a victim from living a normal lifestyle and having a family. Kliest also states, "Adults who were abused sexually as children will have a greater chance than those who were not of experiencing sexual dysfunction, such as flashbacks, difficulty in arousal, and phobic reactions to sexual intimacy" (156). Many researchers agree that childhood sexual abuse has a negative effect on an adult's personal relationships. Another researcher states, "A history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) appears to have an adverse impact on the quality of adult intimate relationships, and they report avoiding the development of close adult relationships because of their fear of rejection" (Whiffen 1103).

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These behavioral problems possess the ability to destroy an adult's intimate relationships.

Being sexually abused as a child has the power to lead to mental health problems as a middle-aged adult. Depression is a common effect of childhood sexual abuse for middle-aged adults. Shane Kasner, a psychologist, states, "Research has consistently found that childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with poor psychological outcome in adult populations" (Kasner 1245). Valerie Whiffen, a psychologist, reports that there is strong evidence relating childhood sexual abuse (CSA) with adult depression (Whiffen 1102). Whiffen says, "Both men and women with a history of childhood sexual abuse reported more interpersonal problems than individuals without this history" (1104). Another researcher documents that "It has often been reprted that suffering abuse as a child can have a negative effect on one's mental health as an adult. Several studies of female psychiatric inpatients and outpatients have found that between 36% to 51% of subjects reported histories of sexual abuse" (Barnard-Thompson 6). That is a very alarming number. Barnard-Thompson also report that "Residents also recognized the significant association of post-traumatic stress disorder, boderline personality disorder, and dissociative disorders with child sexual abuse" (6). These as just a few examples of the outcomes that sexual abuse can cause in middle-aged adults. L.A. McKeown, a doctor, states that "adult women who were sexually abused as children have different hormonal reactions to stress than women who were not abused (McKeown 1). McKeown also says "Women who ere not victims of abuse, whether they were depressed or not, had a heightened biological response to the stressful situation, the degree of their response correlated with the severity of the childhood truama" (1). It has been proven that there is damaging emotional effects that acompany middle-aged adults who are victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Research has been done to argue that a child who was sexually abused has a chance of developing physical problems as a middle-aged adult. Research conducted indicates that a child who was abused sexually has a greater chance of becming involved with drugs as a middle-aged adult than does a child who was not abused sexually. One expert reports, "Women who were sexually abused during childhood are at increased risk for developing psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, and this association was most apparent with more severe forms of sexual abuse" (Henderson 4). Substance disorders can be extremely harmful. Henderson also reports that "Self-reported childhood sexual abuse was positively associated with all disorders, the highest being seen with bulimia and other drug dependence" (4). Bulimia is a disease that can become very dangerous and in some cases fatal. Suicide is another long-term effect. Jocelyn Brown, a psychiatrist, noted that adults with a history of sexaul abuse were more likely to become suicidal (Brown 1). Brown says, "Risk of repeated suicide attempts was eight times greater for adults with a sexual abuse history" (2). It is disturbing to think that a victim of childhood sexual abuse can be so greatly effected from the incident, that it drives a person to take his or her own life.

The effects of childhood sexual abuse can last into middle-aged adulthood. Childhood sexual abuse has the power to ruin an adult's personal and intimate relationships. It can also cause an adult to experience many physical problems from being sexually abused. In addition, many middle-aged adults who were sexually abused as a child can suffer mental health problems. Parents need to be aware of the signs of child abuse. No child should ever be a victim of any type of abuse.

Works Cited
Barnard-Thompson, Kathleen, and Pierre Leichner. "Psychiatric Residents' Views on their Training and Experience Regarding Issues Related to Child Abuse."Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 44 (Oct 1999): 6-9
Brown, Jocelyn. "Children Abuse and Neglect: Specificity of Effects on Adolescent and Young Adult Depression and Suicidality." Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry 38:12 (Dec 1999): 1490-1496
Henderson, C.W. "Women Sexually Abused as Children at Increased Risk of Developing Psychiatric Illness." Women's Health Weekly 11 (Nov 2000): 4-11
Kandel, Minouche, and Eric Kandel. "Repressed Memories of Child Abuse may be Valid." Child Sexual Abuse. Ed. Bruno Leone. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. 27-34
Kasner, Shane. "The Relationship Between Adult Psychological Adjustments and Childhood Sexual Abuse." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15:12 (Dec 2000): 1243-1267
Kliest, George A. "Research on Long-term Effects of Child Abuse." Family Journal 7 (Apr 1999): 154-163. Galileo. 11 Nov 2001
McKeown, L.A. "Research Reveals Changes in the Brain Years After Abuse." Aug 2000. Online Posting. WebMD Medical News. {http://webmd.lycos.com/content/articles/1728.599557}
Mullen, Paul E. "Long-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse" Issues in Child Abuse Prevention 9 (Aug 1998): 989-1011
Whiffen, Valerie E. "Mediators of the Link Between Childhood Abuse and Adult Depressive Symptoms." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15:10 (Oct 2000): 1100-1121
 


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