Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17282 Men Who Were Sexually Abused During Childhood: An Examiniation of Factors That Influence Long-Term Mental Health

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 5:30 PM
Farragut Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Scott D. Easton, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background/Purpose: Men who were sexually abused during childhood (MSAC) represent a highly stigmatized, marginalized population at risk for a variety of psychological problems across the lifespan (Draper et al., 2008; Talbot et al., 2009). Child sexual abuse (CSA) has the potential to negatively affect numerous dimensions of a survivor's life (e.g., mental health, relationships, work history). Researchers have found that CSA increases the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, divorce, suicide, and others (Holmes & Slap, 1998; Putnam, 2003). However, few researchers have examined why some MSAC incur mental health problems and others do not. The purpose of this study was to identify which factors are related to mental distress among MSAC using a psychosocial trauma processing model: account-making (Harvey et al., 1991).

Methods: Using a cross-sectional survey design, the researcher collected data through an anonymous, online, 150-item survey. Participants were recruited through an email campaign and a web page announcement through three national survivor organizations: the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, MaleSurvivor, and The sample consisted of 487 MSAC, one of the largest studies to date on this population. Most participants were Caucasian (90.9%), were living with a spouse/partner (69.9%), and had a college degree (58.1%). The major domains that were examined included abuse severity, disclosure and account-making, conformity to masculine norms (Mahalik et al., 2003) post-traumatic growth (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996). Data were analyzed using multiple regression analyses (OLS).

Results: Multivariate analyses for the final direct effects model revealed that high conformity to masculine norms, account-making stage, and two disclosure variables (told after one year, overall response to disclosure) were related to higher levels of mental distress. Three control variables were also related to mental distress: older age, childhood stressors, and current stressors. Posttraumatic growth moderated the relationship between abuse severity (force, penetration) and mental distress.

Conclusions and Implications: As one of the first studies to examine disclosure across the lifespan, use standardized measures of PTG and masculinity, and apply account-making theory to this population, this study advanced our knowledge of the mental health of MSAC. Beyond generating knowledge, this study also had important practical implications. For example, mental health practitioners should assess clients for adherence to traditional masculine norms, and help deconstruct rigid, exaggerated norms. The results of this study also indicate that practitioners should concentrate on Axis IV stressors as they have a particularly negative effect on the mental health of MSAC. Other practice, policy and research implications are also presented.

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