Emotion dysregulation and risky sexual behavior in revictimization

Terri L. Messman-Moore, Kate L. Walsh, David DiLillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

163 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The current study examined emotion dysregulation as a mechanism underlying risky sexual behavior and sexual revictimization among adult victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) and child physical abuse (CPA). Methods: Participants were 752 college women. Victimization history, emotion dysregulation, and risky sexual behavior were assessed with anonymous, self-report surveys utilizing a cross-sectional design. Results: Approximately 6.3% of participants reported CSA, 25.5% reported CPA, and 17.8% reported rape during adolescence or adulthood. CSA and CPA were associated with increased risk for adolescent/adult rape; 29.8% of CSA victims and 24.3% of CPA victims were revictimized. Path analytic models tested hypothesized relationships among child abuse, emotion dysregulation, adolescent/adult rape and three forms of risky sexual behavior (e.g., failure to use condoms, contraception, or having sex with someone under the influence of alcohol/drugs), including frequency of risky sexual behavior with a regular dating partner, with a stranger, and lifetime number of intercourse partners. Emotion dysregulation mediated revictimization for both CSA and CPA. Emotion dysregulation also predicted lifetime number of sexual partners and frequency of risky sex with a stranger, but not frequency of risky sex with a regular dating partner. Conclusions: Findings suggest that emotion dysregulation is a distal predictor, and risky sex, particularly with lesser known partners, is a proximal predictor of sexual revictimization. Because emotion dysregulation also maintained a significant direct path to revictimization, risky sexual behavior appears to be one of several proximal risk factors for revictimization. Practice implications: Findings confirm that emotion dysregulation is a critical pathway to more proximal risk factors such as risky sexual behavior, and suggest that clinical interventions aimed at improving emotion dysregulation may help reduce risky sexual behavior and risk for revictimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)967-976
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume34
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

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Keywords

  • Child physical abuse
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Emotion dysregulation
  • Psychosexual behavior
  • Rape
  • Revictimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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