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Heterogeneous symptom patterns of sexually abused youth in treatment

Genelle K Sawyer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Child sexual abuse is a pervasive and complex problem. A major challenge for clinicians and researchers is the heterogeneity of the severity and type of symptoms presented by sexually abused youth, such as those who are subclinical on traditional clinical measures but still present to treatment. Most research continues to treat sexually abused youth as a single population and has not assessed the outcomes or symptom trajectories of various groups of sexually abused youth. The objectives of this study were to (1) elucidate the clinical profiles of emotional and behavioral adjustment that are present within a sample of sexually abused youth, and (2) to examine change over the course of treatment for the different profiles utilizing weekly reports of symptomatology. Obtaining weekly reports of symptomatology throughout treatment allows for a unique look at the subtle changes experienced on a weekly basis. ^ Participants in this study included 107 sexually abused youth and their non-offending parents presenting to Project SAFE, a 12-session cognitive-behavioral group treatment for sexually abused children and their non-offending parents. A cluster analysis using multiple child and parent-report measures revealed four distinct profiles of youth, including a Subclinical cluster, a Highly Distressed cluster, a Problem Behaviors cluster, and a Self-Reported Distress cluster. Further, results indicated that there were significant and meaningful differences among the profiles on the measures used in the cluster analyses. The only significant difference between the groups on demographic and abuse characteristics was that the Highly Distressed cluster experienced more severe forms of abuse than youth in the other three clusters. Hierarchical Linear Modeling was used to create separate parent- and child-report models of weekly symptomatology to examine differential change over the course of treatment for each symptom profile. Contrary to expectation, there was little variation in the weekly rates of change for the different symptom groups; however, all groups evidenced a decrease in symptoms over the course of treatment, including the Subclincal cluster. Lastly, limitations of this dissertation and future directions were discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Sawyer, Genelle K, "Heterogeneous symptom patterns of sexually abused youth in treatment" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3275066.