Featured Article: Sexual Abuse as a Unique Predictor of Issues in Adolescence
July 30, 2018
In a recent article in Journal of Adolescence, Kate Guastaferro, assistant research professor at The Methodology Center, and her collaborators examined whether sexual abuse is a unique predictor of adolescent sexual behaviors, pregnancy, and motherhood. Previous research indicated that maltreatment is a risk factor for many negative outcomes but did not adequately examine the impacts of different types of maltreatment (e.g., sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect). If differences exist between types of maltreatment, then failure to detect those differences means that prevention and treatment interventions might not be designed properly. In this article, the authors analyzed longitudinal data from a cohort of 275 maltreated females (aged 14-19) in the Female Adolescent Developmental Study to examine whether the risk behaviors exhibited during adolescence were different for the different types of maltreatment. After controlling for other risk factors (e.g., attitudes and beliefs, non-sexual risk behaviors, psychosocial functioning and contextual antecedents), the authors found that sexual abuse uniquely predicts adolescent motherhood.
When asked about how this research can lead to better outcomes for sexually abused adolescents, Kate said, “There may be ways to streamline funding for prevention programs in order to target behaviors associated with a specific exposure. In other words, the prevention programming offered to individuals who have experienced maltreatment should potentially differ depending upon the type of maltreatment experienced. Females with a history of sexual abuse should be offered more programming around the prevention of risky sexual behaviors and adolescent motherhood, whereas those who experience physical abuse may benefit from only the risky sexual behavior prevention programming. This approach would enable prevention scientists to be more effective and more efficient at the same time.”
Noll, J. G., Guastaferro, K., Beal, S. J., Schreier, H. M., Barnes, J., Reader, J. M., & Font, S. A. (2018). Is sexual abuse a unique predictor of sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy, and motherhood in adolescence? Journal of research on adolescence.