Achieving sexual well-being after abuse: Resilient sexual health trajectories among youth with maltreatment histories
Fava, Nicole Marie
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Despite the large foundation of knowledge pertaining to negative sexual health outcomes experienced by youth with childhood maltreatment histories, there is a relative dearth of research examining healthy sexual development in these youth. This gap exists despite theories and evidence of resilience suggesting that not all youth who are abused will suffer negative consequences. In fact, some youth with adverse childhood experiences, such as maltreatment, grow to become healthy and well-adjusted adults. These individuals follow a developmental trajectory of resilience. That is, they successfully adapt under adverse conditions and are able to return to the same level of functioning they exhibited prior to experiencing maltreatment. Other common trajectories are: chronic, unrelenting poor functioning following a stressor; survival with impairment, initial declines in functioning that plateau over time, but at lower levels than before the stressor; and thriving, growth and functioning exceeding levels prior to the stressor. This study applied these trajectories to sexuality development, hypothesizing that a majority of youth with maltreatment histories would exhibit a resilient trajectory of sexual health. Latent class growth analysis (LCGA) was conducted on a nationally representative sample (N= 9,421) to determine these trajectories of sexual health. This study examined the influence of three types of supportive relationships (i.e., parent, peer, romantic partner), as well as demographic covariates. Results exhibited three distinct sexual health classes that were ultimately differentiated by relational supports, not individual characteristics. This study addressed a significant shortcoming in the literature regarding sexual health after maltreatment, by shifting the focus from negative outcomes to resilience.