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Heterogeneous clinical presentation of sexually abused youth presenting for treatment: An initial examination of clinical subtypes and correlates of adjustment

Georganna Ruth Sedlar, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Child sexual abuse is a complex phenomenon. A hallmark of child sexual abuse is the wide range of symptoms and emotional and behavioral disturbances observed in abused youth. Important advances in understanding the clinical presentation of sexually abused youth have been made in the past two decades. Research has largely focused on between-group differences, thereby overlooking the heterogeneity that exists within a sexually abused sample. The purpose of the present study was to explore the within-group variation of a sample of youth presenting for treatment and identify clinical profiles within this group. A second aim of the present study was to examine environmental (family and parental functioning and abuse history) and demographic (age and gender) correlates of adjustment with the identified clinical profiles. Data from 35 children and nonoffending caregivers presenting for group treatment for child sexual abuse were available for statistical analyses. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used on a wide range of parent- and child-report measures of adjustment and functioning. Analyses revealed the following four cluster profiles: (a) a subclinical profile, characterized by a lack of reported clinically elevated symptoms or problems; (b) a highly distressed profile reflected by pervasive elevations; (c) an abuse-specific profile, showing post-traumatic stress symptoms and abuse related attributions; and (d) a broad externalizing profile, characterized by high levels of acting-out behavior and sexualized behavior. No significant relationships were found between the clinical profiles and environmental or demographic variables. The main limitations of the study included a small sample size and low statistical power. Clinical implications of the findings include refining assessment procedures, tailoring treatment efforts to match individual needs, and allocating resources effectively. Directions for future research include replication of the profiles and establishing their stability with a larger sample size. An examination of how children displaying various clinical profiles respond to treatment would be important for future research efforts. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Sedlar, Georganna Ruth, "Heterogeneous clinical presentation of sexually abused youth presenting for treatment: An initial examination of clinical subtypes and correlates of adjustment" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3022665.