The relationship between sexual abuse and purging: Findings from community-wide surveys of female adolescents

Daniel F. Perkins, Toms Luster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: The first objective of this study was to examine the relationship between sexual abuse and a bulimic behavior, namely purging, with a large sample of female adolescents. If sexual abuse was found to be significantly related to bulimia, then the second objective was to determine if the relationship between abuse and purging remained significant when other factors were controlled. Method: Two different analyses were conducted to address the questions outlined above - a contingency table chi-square test and a logistic regression analysis. A sample of 7,903 female adolescents was drawn from a large Midwestern state. Results: The results of the bivariate analysis provide evidence that a relationship exists between sexual abuse and purging. However, the relationships between sexual abuse and purging did not remain significant when several other factors, including physical abuse, were included in the analysis. Several individual (a history of physical abuse and religiosity), familial (i.e., family support and parent-adolescent communication), and extra-familial (i.e., other adult support) factors were significantly related to purging. Conclusions: The data did not find a significant relationship between sexual abuse and purging when individual, familial, and extra-familial variables were included in the logistic regression. Unlike most earlier studies that focused on clinical samples, this study drew from a larger, more representative sample of female adolescents. The identification of significant predictors of purging at the individual, familial, and extra-familial levels suggests the importance of examining multiple levels of the teen's ecology for factors that may influence this behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-382
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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