Relationship Between Sexual Abuse,
Gender, and Sexually Inappropriate Behaviors in Seriously
Mentally Ill Youths
Jon McClellan, Chris
McCurry, Marilyn Ronnei, Julie Adams,
Michael Storck, Andrea Eisner, Cindy Smith
To examine gender differences
in sexual abuse histories and in the development of inappropriate sexual
behaviors in a sample of seriously mentally ill youths.
A retrospective chart review
was completed for all patients from 1987 through 1992 at a tertiary care
public sector psychiatric hospital for youths (N 5 499). Subjects were
categorized by gender, sexual abuse status, and whether they had sexually
reactive or victimizing behaviors.
Girls were more likely to have
been sexually abused, and their abuse histories were more severe. Sexual
behavior problems in girls were almost exclusively associated with sexual
abuse, whereas 29% of boys with victimizing behaviors had no sexual abuse
history. Among sexually abused youths, boys were more likely to display
victimizing behaviors, whereas both genders displayed similar rates of
sexually reactive behaviors. Of the 19 girls who displayed victimizing
behaviors, 95% were chronically sexually abused and one third had also
received a major injury due to physical abuse.
Boys appear to have a lower
threshold of abuse exposure required to develop sexually inappropriate
behaviors and are significantly more likely to display victimizing behaviors.
Conversely, victimizing behaviors in girls may require a catastrophic maltreatment
history. These gender differences should be incorporated into treatment
interventions directed at sexual abuse victims.
J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1997, 36(7):959-965.
sexually inappropriate behaviors,
gender, sexual abuse.