Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gold, Steven R.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Adult child sexual abuse victims--Psychology; Sexual fantasies--Psychological aspects


The purpose of the current study was to investigate the impact of child sexual abuse on the quality and content of adult sexual fantasies and sexual problems. Three variables (parental support, attributional style, and abuse severity) hypothesized to mediate the effects of the abuse were also investigated. Child sexual abuse was defined as any self-reported contact (e.g., fondling to intercourse) experienced by a subject before age 15 and initiated by someone five or more years her senior. Eighty-one sexually abused college women were matched with nonabused women on sexual experience, age, and marital status. The average subject was 18.8 years old, single, and reported participating in sexual intercourse after her fifteenth birthday. The subjects completed a series of self-report measures including the Childhood Sexual Experiences Questionnaire, Sexual Fantasy Questionnaire, Parental Support Scale, Trauma Symptoms Checklist, Attributional Style Questionnaire, and Adolescents and Adult Sexual Experiences Questionnaire. The abused subjects began having sexual fantasies at a significantly earlier age and reported their sexual force fantasies as being significantly more intrusive into their thoughts than the nonabused subjects. Intrusive sexual fantasies were hypothesized to be the result of unsuccessful attempts at suppressing thoughts about the abuse. There was a trend for the abused subjects to report more sexual problems. Abused women who reported higher levels of parental support tended to have less sexual problems and less intrusive sexual force fantasies. Abused women who tended to make stable attributions for negative events reported their sexual force fantasies as being more intrusive. A model was proposed whereby a victim of child sexual abuse from a family with little parental support develops an internal, stable, global attributional style for negative events and feels that one of her only options for coping is to suppress her thoughts about the abuse. This may be adaptive at the time, but later in life, environmental contexts may trigger a rebounding of the suppressed thoughts and a paradoxical preoccupation with them. The resulting negative emotions coupled with attempts at avoiding the environmental cues (such as sexual activity) can lead to sexual problems in adulthood.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [85]-92)


130 pages




Northern Illinois University

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