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Predicting sexual revictimization in childhood and adolescence: A prospective examination using ecological systems theory

Samantha L Pittenger, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Child sexual abuse is a prevalent problem in the United States and is associated with revictimization: a victimization episode perpetrated by a different individual and occurring subsequent to initial abuse experiences (Barnes, Noll, Putnam, & Trickett, 2009). While evidence shows that 20-39% of sexual abuse victims report revictimization within childhood or adolescence, much of the research to date has focused on its occurrence in adulthood. Thus, there is a limited understanding of the pathways to revictimization and its associated outcomes for youth. The present study examined predictors of sexual revictimization within childhood and adolescence using ecological theory, which includes individual, family, and community-level factors. Records of 1,915 youth presenting to a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) between 2002 and 2014 were reviewed to identify individual, familial, and community factors as well as initial abuse and investigation characteristics that are associated with risk for subsequent victimization. Results showed that 11.1% of youth experienced sexual revictimization prior to reaching adulthood and that the risk for subsequent abuse was predicted by factors across levels of the social ecological model. At the individual level, younger children, girls, and youth with an identified mental health problem were most likely to experience revictimization. Aspects of the youth’s immediate context that increased vulnerability for revictimization included the presence of a non-caregiving adult in the home and domestic violence in the family. Finally, the collective educational attainment of one’s neighborhood, measured as the proportion of adults with a high school diploma or GED, seemed to protect youth from revictimization. Findings from this study provide valuable information for CACs, including patterns of revictimization as well as static and dynamic risk factors that may contribute to repeat victimizations. The implications for assessing and monitoring youth following discovery of sexual abuse are discussed.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Pittenger, Samantha L, "Predicting sexual revictimization in childhood and adolescence: A prospective examination using ecological systems theory" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10134133.