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

Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, United States.
Child Abuse & Neglect (Impact Factor: 2.47). 02/2008; 32(1):83-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.09.005
Source: PubMed


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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