Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2003) 18: 471-489. DOI: 10.1177/0886260503251068.

Comments; Citations: Published on behalf of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Copyright 2003, Sage. Used by permission.


Sexual abuse research has traditionally focused on adult, retrospective accounts of potential correlates of abuse and their impact on functioning. However, only a few studies have examined sexually abused adolescents’ perceptions of their families, and results have proven inconclusive. This study examined whether family factors would differentiate sexually abused and nonabused adolescent psychiatric inpatients. Fifty-seven psychiatric inpatients, ages 11 to 17, who either had experienced sexual abuse or had no history of sexual victimization completed a diagnostic interview and were assessed on a variety of family indices. Results indicated that after controlling for level of depression, sexually abused adolescents could be differentiated from their nonabused counterparts based on family variables. Sexually abused adolescents reported their families as more authoritarian and more enmeshed. They also perceived more negative messages from their nonoffending father figures about the world. Also, exploratory gender analyses revealed that sexually abused females reported greater levels of depression than sexually abused males.