Childhood sexual abuse: The relationship between patterns of appraisal and long-term effects

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Clive M. Davis


Anxiety, Coping, Appraisal, Childhood sexual abuse

Subject Categories



A college student sample of 605 men and women was used in a retrospective study of child sexual abuse (CSA). From this sample 45 women and 11 men were identified as victims of CSA; a matched comparison group was then drawn from the remaining 549 participants. I used Finkelhor's (1988) Traumagenic Dynamics Model to conceptualize the impact of CSA on participants. Each dynamic in the model was operationalized in terms of appraisals (Smith & Ellsworth, 1985) made about the abuse. I predicted that specific patterns of appraisal would be associated with particular symptoms. The CSA participants reported significantly more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hostility than the comparison subjects. They were also more interested and more liberal in their attitudes about sexuality. As predicted, male CSA participants reported their CSA experience as more congruent with their goals than did the female participants. A number of symptoms were significantly associated with appraisal components or core relational themes: Anxiety scores were significantly correlated with Motivational relevance, Future expectancy, and Hopelessness in Loss. Depression scores were significantly correlated with Future expectancy and Other Blame. Most characteristics of the abuse experience were not associated with appraisals with the exceptions of mother's predicted level of support (with Other-accountability) and the use of force (with Problem and Emotion focused coping). The results did not support the function of appraisals as mediators or moderators between the characteristics of the abuse and the long-term symptoms associated with it.