Pyschopathology and childhood sexual abuse : an investigation of the relationship between sexual arousal, attributional style, attributions of blame for CSA and psychological adjustment
The relationships between sexual arousal, attributional style, attributions of blame for child sexual abuse (CSA) and psychopathology were investigated in a non-clinical sample. One hundred female undergraduates completed a questionnaire incorporating the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, (Rosenberg, 1965), the Symptom Checklist 90-R (Derogatis, 1996), the Extended Attributional Style Questionnaire (Peterson et al., 1988) and questions about CSA experiences. Participants reporting CSA also completed the Attributions of Responsibility and Blame Scales (McMillen and Zuravin, 1997), and were asked if they had experienced sexual arousal during their CSA. Twenty five per cent of participants reported a history of CSA, and of this group, 32% reported experiencing sexual arousal during CSA. The CSA group had higher levels of symptomatology and negative attributional style than the Comparison non-abused group. Within the CSA group, symptomatology was positively associated with self-blame and negative attributional style, and negatively associated with selfesteem. Self-blame for CSA was positively associated with family/other blame, and negatively associated with self-esteem. The Aroused group experienced greater frequency and severity (number of types) of CSA, and showed higher levels of selfblame for the CSA than the Non-Aroused group. No evidence was found in the current study for a connection between sexual arousal and psychopathology. Further research using a larger sample size is indicated. The importance of including frequency, severity and sexual arousal as possible characteristics of CSA experiences during clinical assessment and interventions with adult survivors and focussing treatment strategies accordingly is discussed.