Disclosure of CSA and Social Relationship Quality Among College Students

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Research on traumatic experiences has focused on disclosure to social networks. Among these findings, disclosure was lower for individuals at risk for PTSD than the general population, and the amount of disclosure depended on the person to whom the individual disclosed. Social support can be related to fewer psychological problems such as PTSD. In this way the understanding of disclosure, and its predictors and consequences become especially relevant. This current study examines disclosure of Childhood Sexual Assault (CSA) experiences among college students and perceived quality of their current relationships (i.e., whether there is someone they can confide in about personal problems or feelings without holding back). As disclosures occur primarily to create and maintain social bonds (Fivush, Bohanek,Robertson, & Duke; 2004), disclosure may lead to greater intimacy. Or, individuals may disclose because they already have quality relationships. Participants were identified from a sample of 654 college students attending a Southeastern university and who completed an online survey. From this sample 44 (6.73%) had experienced CSA (Finkelhor). Of these, 18 had disclosed their experiences, and 39 indicated having a confiding relationship with someone in their lives. Other findings indicated that although 75% of those without a confiding relationship were from the group that had not disclosed, disclosure may not directly relate to the level of quality of relationship (as defined by confiding). Specifically, of those who did not disclose, the large majority (88.5%) indicated having a confiding relationship. And, of those who had at least one confiding relationship, only 41 percent had disclosed their CSA. Future research may look at other indicators of quality in relationships and how they relate to disclosure. Moreover, future studies might explore how disclosure does or does not affect the relationship quality with specific social network members.


New Orleans, LA

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