The Sexual Abuse Of The Young Female In Life Course Perspective

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Sol Gordon


Families & family life, Personal relationships, Sociology

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society


Life course theory was used to guide research into the child's perception of the sexually abusive relationship. Methodology included life histories of 20 girls between the ages of 10 and 15 and who had been sexually abused and a survey of 117 boys and girls who presumably were not sexually abused.

Findings from the survey indicate that sexually abused girls have less of a sense of mastery than peers over life events. They also have more conservative standards of sexual conduct than peers. These standards were found to be violated to a much greater degree than the standards of non-sexually abused but sexually active female peers.

The life histories indicate that sexually abused children perceive adults as powerful authority figures who have the right to tell them what to do. All the children experienced fear of the offenders, and they all expressed conflict over or outright rejection of the sexual interaction.

Like adult rape victims, the sexually abused sample blamed themselves for the abuse. One 10 year-old, abused for six years by her middle-aged grandfather, said, "I never told him not to do it."

Many didn't understand what the offender was doing. Most had received little or no information on sexual acts from parents or schools.

Most were afraid they would get in trouble and people would think they are bad. Some expressed fear about getting married and having children. They were concerned that a husband might do to their children what had been done to them. A few wanted to live alone or with female roommates when they were adults.

What happened, when, and how was under the control of the offender. If the child resisted, the offender often threatened or beat the child. Even when there was no explict threat, the children often felt controlled by the adults. As one child said, "He was big and I was little. I had to do what he said."


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