METHOD: The current study uses data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (NSCAW) to examine the influence of cumulative family risk, social skills and peer rejection on long term internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. Data were collected from youth, caregivers and caseworkers across four waves (baseline; 1½, 3 & 5 yr follow up). Behavioral problems were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist; social skills was measured using the Social Skills Rating System; and peer rejection was measured using the Peer Loneliness & Social Dissatisfaction Questionnaire.
RESULTS: Overall, sexually abused boys in this sample are relatively resilient – with behavioral problems averaging in the normal range across all three waves; approximately 1/5th scored above the clinical threshold. Regression analyses indicated that cumulative family risk confers greater risk for internalizing and externalizing problems over time while social skills had a buffering effect. Cumulative family risk moderated the relationship between severity and increased Wave 3 internalizing and externalizing problems. Peer rejection had a more prominent role in influencing internalizing outcomes. Specifically, peer rejection moderated the co-occurring abuse-internalizing problems relationship and the perpetrator-internalizing problems relationship. Social skills moderated the relationship between severity and behavioral problems. The most consistent pattern of findings for the moderating role of social skills was in the severity-internalizing problems relationship.
CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS: The findings are consistent with growing body of research underscoring the complex longitudinal relations between internalizing and externalizing problems across development. Future studies should pay closer attention to within group variation across socio-demographic and abuse characteristics and continue to disentangle the underlying mechanisms that contribute to adaptive and maladaptive outcomes for sexually abused boys.