Psychological distress in Canadian males and females reporting childhood sexual abuse: exploring the role of social support

Pevie, Cally (2021) Psychological distress in Canadian males and females reporting childhood sexual abuse: exploring the role of social support. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a severe form of childhood maltreatment that has consistently been associated with deleterious biopsychosocial outcomes spanning into adulthood. CSA prevalence rates in the Canadian adult population have been estimated at 8% with females demonstrating higher rates (12% - 15.2%) than males (4% - 4.8%; Burczycka, 2015; Pereda et al., 2009). While perceived social support has been identified as a potential protective factor for CSA survivors, further investigation is required to elucidate the types of social support that are beneficial for males and females in this population. Data associated with a sample of 1,328 Canadian adults (20-64-years-old) reporting CSA before the age of 16 were extracted from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey of Mental Health (Statistics Canada, 2013a) and analysed. It was observed that the CSA sample had significantly higher levels of distress, and lower levels of social support (overall and for each subscale) than the entire adult Canadian sample, with the male CSA sample reporting significantly lower levels of social support (overall and for each subscale) compared with the CSA female sample. Subsequent hierarchical regressions revealed that social support predicted 18.5% of the variance in psychological distress in the overall CSA sample after controlling for age, personal income, and biological sex, with guidance, reassurance of worth, and social integration significantly predicting lower levels of psychological distress in females reporting CSA, and attachment (presence of close secure relationships) predicting lower distress in males reporting CSA. These findings provide further cross-sectional support for the stress-buffering hypothesis in CSA adults and suggest that individuals with trauma histories may benefit from having their social support systems tailored to the type of trauma they experienced and their biological sex. These results are discussed in terms of their clinical relevance in the psychological treatment of adults with CSA histories.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 15392
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 60-79).
Keywords: childhood sexual abuse, attachment, psychological distress, social support, sex differences
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: November 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Child sexual abuse--Sex differences--Canada; Distress (Psychology)--Canada; Social networks--Canada; Mental health services--Canada.

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