Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Objective: The current study aims to investigate social reactions to childhood sexual abuse disclosure (CSA) in adult men and women. Additionally, the study explores the relationship between conformity to masculinity norms and perception of parental style on timing of disclosure and resulting internalizing and externalizing symptoms and substance abuse.
Method: Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, 299 adult men and women residing in the U.S. (Mage = 35.9, SDage= 10.5; 53% female; 78% European American) completed an anonymous online series of survey items pertaining to childhood sexual abuse, internalizing and externalizing mental health symptoms, substance abuse, social reactions to their CSA disclosure, perception of parental style, conformity to masculinity norms, and CSA disclosure characteristics.
Results: An independent samples t test revealed there was not a significant difference between time to disclosure for men and women. Hierarchical linear regression revealed that relationship to perpetrator, gender, and parental dysfunction did not account for a significant amount of variance in time until disclosure. A MANOVA revealed a trend in overall social reactions to CSA disclosure between men and women. Separate univariate tests revealed that women reported receiving significantly more positive and emotionally supportive responses than men. There were no differences between men and women on the other Social Reactions Questionnaire scales (e.g., Turning Against, Unsupportive Acknowledgement).
Negative reactions to disclosure, and the heterosexual self-preservation and self-reliance masculinity norms were significant predictors of internalizing issues. Negative reactions to disclosure and the masculinity norm heterosexual self-preservation were also significant predictors of externalizing issues. Lastly, negative reactions to disclosure and perceived parental dysfunction were significant predictors of substance abuse.
The main effect of negative reactions to disclosure on internalizing mental health outcomes was significant, but this relationship was not moderated by gender. The main effect of negative reactions to disclosure on externalizing mental health outcomes was significant, but this relationship was not moderated by gender. The main effects of a) negative reactions to disclosure on substance abuse and b) gender on substance abuse were significant. However, the relationship between negative reactions to disclosure and substance abuse was not moderated by gender.
Conclusion: The findings have implications for better supporting CSA survivors; men and women may be similar in when they disclose but may receive different reactions to such disclosure. Negative reactions to disclosure, regardless of survivor gender, may increase risk for internalizing, externalizing, and substance abuse in CSA survivors. There remains much to be understood about the disclosure process and how changes in the way society views sexual abuse and assault impacts disclosure and its associated outcomes.
Hall, Kayla E., "Childhood Sexual Abuse Disclosure and Mental Health Outcomes: The Relationship Between Gender, Parental Style, and Masculinity Norms" (2021). USC Aiken Psychology Theses. 57.