How do female adolescents transition out of residential care ? Towards a comprehensive understanding of child sexual abuse in relation to trauma-related symptoms



van Vugt E, Lanctôt N, Paquette G, Lemieux A. (2017). How do female adolescents transition out of residential care: The impact of sexual abuse on trauma related symptoms in emerging adulthood. Revue Criminologie. 50(1): 127-155.


The current study advances our understanding of the level of trauma-related symptoms reported in emerging adulthood among a sample of out-of-care females who experienced child sexual abuse. To obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the experience of sexual abuse, the impact of a number of characteristics was investigated : severity, variety, chronicity, identity of the perpetrator, frequency, and age of onset. Method : The sample was composed of 133 young adult females who had transitioned out of residential care. Sexual abuse was assessed retrospectively using an adjusted version of a sexual abuse survey developed by Finkelhor et al. (1990) ; trauma-related symptoms were assessed using the Trauma Symptom Inventory-2 (Briere, 2011). Results : Young adult females who had experienced sexual abuse had much higher levels of trauma-related symptoms than those without such a history. Additionally, females who reported more severe forms (rape), various types (variety), and more persistent (chronicity) experiences of sexual abuse showed elevated levels of trauma-related symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts, insecure attachments, and defensive avoidance. Differences in frequency, identity of the perpetrator, and onset were less predictive of the level of trauma-related symptoms. Conclusion : Assessment of the specific characteristics of sexual abuse confirms the need to support females who have experienced persistent and diverse experiences of sexual abuse in developing secure relationships.