Childhood sexual abuse can have devastating and long-lasting consequences for survivors, yet little research has focused on the factors associated with resiliency following childhood sexual abuse.
New research published in Clinical Psychological Science reveals that certain demographic, personality, and abuse-related variables predict the well-being of childhood sexual abuse survivors later in life.
Using an online survey of more than 47,000 people between the ages of 18 and 80, psychological scientists Claire Whitelock, Michael Lamb, and Peter Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge (UK) collected data on each of these variables.
The researchers found that life satisfaction was highest among those who were female, young, White, employed, earning more money, highly educated, in intimate relationships, and who had suffered fewer traumatic experiences in childhood. In addition, the survivors who reported the greatest well-being were more likely to have certain personality traits: They were extraverted, agreeable, conscientious, as well as less neurotic.
Contrary to previous results, the researchers found that openness to new experience predicted lower life-satisfaction in survivors. They suggest that new experiences might affect survivors of childhood sexual abuse differently, such that any negative experience would be perceived as an additional stressor that compounds the trauma they’ve already experienced.
These findings suggest that individual demographic and personality differences play a role in the well-being of survivors of childhood sexual trauma.
Whitelock, C., Lamb, M., & Rentfrow, P. (2013). Overcoming Trauma: Psychological and Demographic Characteristics of Child Sexual Abuse Survivors in Adulthood. Clinical Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/2167702613480136