Adult coping with childhood sexual abuse: A theoretical and empirical review

Kate Walsh, Michelle A. Fortier, David DiLillo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

84 Scopus citations

Abstract

Coping has been suggested as an important element in understanding the long-term functioning of individuals with a history of child sexual abuse (CSA). The present review synthesizes the literature on coping with CSA, first by examining theories of coping with trauma, and, second by examining how these theories have been applied to studies of coping in samples of CSA victims. Thirty-nine studies were reviewed, including eleven descriptive studies of the coping strategies employed by individuals with a history of CSA, eighteen correlational studies of the relationship between coping strategies and long-term functioning of CSA victims, and ten investigations in which coping was examined as a mediational factor in relation to long-term outcomes. These studies provide initial information regarding early sexual abuse and subsequent coping processes. However, this literature is limited by several theoretical and methodological issues, including a failure to specify the process of coping as it occurs, a disparity between theory and research, and limited applicability to clinical practice. Future directions of research are discussed and include the need to understand coping as a process, identification of coping in relation to adaptive outcomes, and considerations of more complex mediational and moderational processes in the study of coping with CSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2010

Keywords

  • Adult female victims
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Childhood trauma
  • Coping strategies
  • Methods of coping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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