Title: A two-year follow up study of sexually â€“abused children and adolescents: An assessment of psychiatric and psychosocial characteristics
Early research on child sexual abuse (CSA) attempted to assess its possible effects (Merrill et al., 2001; Horesh et al, 2003). Researchers found that victims of CSA are prone to a host of emotional disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociative disorders, anxiety disorders and suicidality (Whiffen & MacIntosh, 2005). Nevertheless, some studies revealed that, despite early adversity, certain individuals are free of symptoms later in life (Jonzon & Lindblad, 2006; Rind & Tromovitch, 1997). Thus, subsequent researchers endeavored to identify the variables moderating the relationship between CSA and negative outcomes. In an attempt to formulate an integrative explanation of the association between CSA and outcomes, the most recent studies have constructed and examined models based on preceding generations of research (Merrill et al., 2001).
The aim of this comprehensive study is to construct a model addressing the relation between CSA and its psychological outcomes. The study intends to examine a unique population of CSA victims seven times during the two years subsequent to the abuse. To date, only a few prospective studies have monitored the development of victims’ psychological outcomes. Hence, the proposed study will examine the development of PTSD symptoms, depression, dissociation, anxiety and suicidality over a two-year period. The questionnaires along the assessment points will be filled out by research assistants at base line and after six months. The study will address a variety of mediating variables. Our examination will include most factors targeted by previous studies as indicative of the severity of the abusive act: threat or actual use of force, duration and frequency of abuse, offender’s gender, and penetration or invasiveness. This will enable us to comprehensively examine the documented contradiction regarding the impact of abuse severity on psychological outcomes. Factors including the age at the onset of abuse, the gender of the abused child and academic achievements will also be examined. Other variables to be examined include the complex association among self-disclosure as a personality trait, self-esteem, the child’s attachment and coping styles, and the victim's psychological adjustment. The abused child’s domestic environment has been found to have a relevant impact on the psychological outcomes of CSA. The proposed study will examine inter-parental conflicts, cohesion and expressiveness in the child’s home, parental attachment styles and parental psychopathology.
To the best of our knowledge, no investigation of this nature has yet been performed. Hence, the proposed study may make a major contribution to research in the field of the psychological outcomes of CSA. In addition, a combined examination of abuse characteristics, child characteristics, domestic environment and therapeutic history will facilitate enhanced understanding of the interactions among CSA, mediating factors and psychological outcomes