Etiological Pathways to the Emergence of Preteen Problematic Sexual Behavior: An Exploratory Mediational Model

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Abstract

Studies examining the etiology of problematic sexual behavior (PSB) among pre-teen children often rely on identifying correlational relationships without examining potential causal mechanisms. This study describes an exploratory analysis of a potential mediational model where child sexual abuse (CSA) and child physical abuse (CPA) predict the onset of PSB through their impact on the emergence of posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms and self-dysregulation. The caregivers of 189 children between the ages of 3 and 11 years presenting for mental health treatment in the United States completed a battery of measures designed to assess each of the variables in the model. Cross-sectional, regression-based mediational analyses showed that the overall model performed adequately (R = 0.33, R2 = 0.11, F = 3.07, p =.004). CSA exerted a direct effect on PSB that was not mediated through either PTS or self-dysregulation. However, no direct effect for CPA was found. Rather, CPA exerted a significant effect on the display of self-dysregulation, which in turn was associated with PSB. These results are discussed in light of clinical implications and directions for further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-502
Number of pages15
JournalSexual Abuse
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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