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[Scientific Articles] 

Men's self-definitions of abusive childhood sexual experiences, and potentially related risky behavioral and psychiatric outcomes

William C. Holmes, Child Abuse & Neglect 32 (2008) 8 - Pages 83-97

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To estimate how many heterosexual and gay/bisexual men self-define  abusive childhood sexual experiences (CSEs) to be childhood sexual abuse  (CSA) and to assess whether CSA self-definition is associated with risky  behavioral and psychiatric outcomes in adulthood.


In Philadelphia County, 197 (66%) of 298 recruited men participated in a  telephone survey. They were screened for CSEs and then asked if they  self-defined abusive CSEs to be CSA; they also were asked about risk  behavior histories and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and  depression symptoms.


Of 43 (22%) participants with abusive CSEs, 35% did not and 65% did  self-define abusive CSEs to be CSA ("Non-Definers" and "Definers,"  respectively). Heterosexual and gay/bisexual subgroups' CSA  self-definition rates did not significantly differ. When self-definition  subgroups were compared to those without CSEs ("No-CSEs"), Non-Definers  had lower perceived parental care (p = .007) and fewer siblings (p =  .03), Definers had more Hispanics and fewer African Americans (p = .04),  and No-CSEs had fewer gay/bisexual men (p = .002) and fewer reports of  physical abuse histories (p = .02) than comparison groups.

Non-Definers  reported more sex under the influence (p = .001) and a higher mean  number of all lifetime sex partners (p = .004) as well as (only) female  sex partners (p = .05). More Non-Definers than Definers reported having  experienced penetrative sex as part of their CSA (83% vs. 35%, p =  .006). Different explanations about self-definition were provided by  subgroups.


Many men with abusive CSEs do not self-define these CSEs to be CSA,  though not in a way that differs by sexual identity. The process by  which men self-define their abusive CSEs to be CSA or not appears to be  associated not only with self-explanations that differ by  self-definition subgroup, but also with behavioral outcomes that impart  risk to Non-Definers.

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