Factors associated with differential distress levels in sexually abused adolescents



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Texas Tech University


The purpose of the study was to examine factors associated with differential levels of self-esteem, depression, and negative behaviors in female adolescent incest victims. The Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Negative Behavior Checklist were used as measures of distress. Using a symbolic interaction theoretical framework, seven factors were predicted to differentiate high and low levels of distress in victims. Greater distress was predicted to be associated with: (a) longer duration of abuse, (b) greater frequency of abuse, (c) more severe type of abuse, (d) greater degree of self-blame for the abuse, (e) more negative response of the mother to disclosure of the abuse, (f) more negative response of the perpetrator, and (g) family disruption due to removal of the perpetrator or victim from the home.

Findings of the study were based upon questionnaire responses from 101 female adolescents in therapy groups to which sexually abused girls are routinely assigned. All subjects were 12 to 18 years old.

Results of the multiple regression analyses showed that increased severity of sexual abuse was significantly associated with greater distress on all three dependent variables. More negative response of mother was related to lower self-esteem and increased depression. Greater degree of self-blame and more negative response of perpetrator were both related to increased negative behaviors. No support was found for a relationship between distress level and: duration of abuse, frequency of abuse, or family disruption. Both age and race were found to be significantly associated with distress levels. Younger adolescents had lower self-esteem but fewer negative behaviors. Non-whites, predominantly Hispanics, had higher depression levels and increased negative behaviors.



Teenage girls -- Mental health, Sexually abused children -- Mental health, Incest victims