Early Abuse Experiences and Subsequent Gender Differences in Couple Adjustment

  • Godbout N
  • Lussier Y
  • Sabourin S
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Abstract

The main purpose of the current study was to evaluate the relationship between early abusive experiences (sexual abuse, parental violence, and witnessing parental violence) and subsequent couple adjustment with a theoretical model that incorporates attachment and psychological distress as mediator variables. We specifically examined the variability in long-term psychosocial characteristics of child abuse survivors across women and men. A representative sample of French-Canadian couples composed of 632 men and women completed measures of child abuse, attachment, psychological distress, and dyadic adjustment. Structural equation analyses showed that, for both women and men, sexual abuse was related to dyadic adjustment through anxiety about abandonment and psychological distress. For men, experiencing physical or psychological violence was associated with dyadic adjustment through psychological distress. For women, there was an indirect relationship between witnessing physical violence and dyadic adjustment through abandonment anxiety. Differences between men and women in the long-term adjustment to childhood sexual abuse were small and not consistent with a gender-specific model of psychosocial repercussions.

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Authors

  • Natacha Godbout

  • Yvan Lussier

  • Stéphane Sabourin

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