The development of a multidimensional scale to assess the degree of adulthood behavioral and emotional impairment associated with the consequences of childhood sexual abuse

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Welfare

First Advisor's Name

Karen Sowers-Hoag

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Fred Becker

Third Advisor's Name

Rosa Jones

Date of Defense



This dissertation examines a conceptual model of the relationship between four identified dimensions of childhood sexual abuse and the reported consequences attributed to these dimensions. The dimensions are betrayal, powerlessness, stigmatization and sexual traumatization. In this conceptual model, developed by Browne and Finkelhor (1985), the emotional, psychological, behavioral and physical negative consequences associated with sexual abuse can be understood as a function of the dimension under which they are grouped conceptually. To examine this conceptual model, an assessment scale was developed based on these dimensions.

A nonprobability sample of college students was used to test the model and develop the scale. A total of 400 students were surveyed, from which 287 completed surveys were obtained. The sample contained a total of 137 survivors of sexual abuse. Factor analysis was used to test the model and develop the dimensions that would form the subscales of the assessment scale. In addition, t-tests were utilized to see if the developed scale demonstrated significant differences on the scores between abused and non-abused subjects, as well as between male and female abused subjects. Discriminant analysis was used to test the scale's ability to discriminate between those subjects who reported a history of sexual abuse and those that did not.

The results indicate support for the conceptualization proposed by Finkelhor and Browne (1985). The results of the t-test show that there are statistically significant differences between the abused and non-abused subjects, but not among the male and female abused subjects. The results also suggest that the final version of the scale is able to discriminate between those subjects reporting a history of sexual abuse and those who did not in 63 percent of the cases.

The results of this study demonstrate empirical support for a theoretical model that seeks to explain the relationship between sexual abuse and its consequences. It also resulted in the development of a multidimensional scale that assesses the degree of impairment associated with these consequences. Social work practitioners can utilize this scale to help guide their assessment and to determine areas for clinical intervention when working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.



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