Sociology, Department of


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Published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15:3 (March 2000), pp. 235–250. Copyright © 2000 Sage Publications, Inc. Used by permission.

A version of this article was presented at the Midwest Sociological Society Meetings in Kansas City, April 1998. This article is based on research supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH50140), Les B. Whitbeck principal investigator.


Based on risk amplification and victimization theories, path analysis was used to investigate the effect of early sexual abuse on later sexual victimization among 361 female homeless and runaway adolescents in four mid-western states. Results indicated that early sexual abuse in the home had a positive direct effect on sexual victimization of adolescents on the streets. Early sexual abuse also increased the likelihood of later sexual victimization indirectly by increasing the amount of time at risk, deviant peer associations, and incidents of survival sex. Young women who leave dysfunctional and disorganized homes often characterized by abuse continue on negative developmental trajectories once they reach the streets. The social context of street life puts these adolescents in close proximity to potential offenders and exposes them to crime and criminals. The combination of a negative developmental trajectory and the high-risk street environment increases these young women’s chances of being sexually victimized.

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