Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Adult child sexual abuse victims--Health and hygiene; Adult child sexual abuse victims--Psychology; Child sexual abuse--Psychological aspects; Women--Health and hygiene; Women--Psychology; Stress (Psychology); Mind and body


Current literature on child sexual abuse identifies a range o f possible long-term consequences. One relatively new area o f research is the effect o f child sexual abuse on adult physical illness. Women with a history of sexual abuse have been found to report significantly more health problems, including gynecological problems, digestive problems, pelvic pain, and headaches, than women with no history o f sexual abuse. A possible explanation for somatic symptoms in victims of childhood sexual abuse is that sexual abuse is a stressful life event. Life-events stress resulting from traumatic events is associated with a weakening o f the immune system, poor physical health, and increased physical symptoms. Daily hassles, the ongoing stressors o f everyday life, have also been connected to increases in physical symptoms and an overall decline in health. Research generally supports the finding that daily stress suppresses immune system activity, although the precise mechanisms are not understood. This was the first study to examine the relationships between a history o f child sexual abuse, daily hassles, and adult physical health in college women. The hypothesis that women with a history o f childhood sexual abuse would have more overall physical symptoms than those who did not report a history of childhood sexual abuse was not supported However, the hypothesis that the frequency o f daily hassles would be related to physical symptoms and the hypothesis that women with a history o f childhood sexual abuse would be particularly susceptible to the effects of daily stressors were both partially supported.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [57]-59)


iv, 82 pages




Northern Illinois University

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