Differences in Experiences of Childhood Abuse Between Clinical and Nonclinical Samples

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Child abuse is highly prevalent in the United States, as prior research has shown that 21% of the child population reports experiences of sexual abuse, 28% experience physical abuse, and 11% are emotionally abused. Many studies have assessed the prevalence and consequences of child abuse, but fewer have considered the differences between individual experiences of childhood abuse. The current study investigates possible differences between nonclinical and clinical samples, specifically with regard to victim-perpetrator relationships. We hypothesize that clinical inpatient samples experience greater rates of abuse than a nonclinical sample, and also that participants from clinical samples experience more abuse by family members than those in a nonclinical setting. Our sample (N=521; 53% female; 78% Caucasian) Page 60 2016 Appalachian Student Research Forum consists of participants who report a history of childhood emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse in samples of university students (n=342), randomly-selected forensic adult inpatients from a maximum- and intermediate-security psychiatric facility (n=90), and youth males receiving treatment for sexual misconduct in residential care (n=89). Data were self-reported in the study of university students and retrieved from archival records in the latter two samples. Within the subsample, 69% experienced emotional abuse, 54% had been physically abused, and 45% were sexually abused during childhood. Chisquare analyses were conducted to examine the occurrence of familial versus nonfamilial perpetrators of physical and sexual abuse between two subsamples (clinical inpatient samples versus nonclinical university sample). Individuals with a history of sexual abuse in the clinical sample were more likely than those in the nonclinical sample to be sexually abused by family members,  2 (1, N=230)=11.67, p = .001. Additionally, individuals who were physically abused in the clinical sample were more likely to have been physically abused by relatives than those in the nonclinical sample,  2 (1, N=235)=7.94, p = .005. In contrast, physically abused participants in the nonclinical sample were significantly more likely than those in the clinical sample to be physically abused by nonfamily members,  2 (1, N=235)=19.10, p = .000. There was no significant difference in the likelihood of experiencing extrafamilial sexual abuse between the clinical and nonclinical samples,  2 (1, N=230)=1.96, p = .162. Our results suggest that there are significant differences between the experiences across the subsamples in this study. Additional analyses will include further investigation of the various types of perpetrators (e.g., mother, father, acquaintance, etc.) between the subsamples. Future directions and limitations will be included.


Johnson City, TN

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