Childhood trauma experience and the expression of problematic sexual behavior in children and adolescents in state custody

Laura Szanto, John S. Lyons, Cassandra Kisiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The present study is designed to identify which types of trauma experiences interact with later development of normal and abnormal sexual behavior in children and adolescents. More specifically, our goal is to determine which types of trauma exposure are related to issues of sexuality, sexually reactive behavior, sexually aggressive behavior, and the combination of both sexually reactive and sexually aggressive behavior. A sample of 5,976 children ages 5 to 18 who were wards of the State of Illinois were studied. All children were assessed with the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) at entry into care. These data were used to understand the relationship between prior trauma experiences and the expression of problematic sexual behavior. Child sexual abuse was the most common form of maltreatment found in children and adolescents with problematic sexual behaviors. However, other types of trauma experiences, especially exposure to violence, were also related. Sexual abuse and multiple trauma experiences both appear to have an important possible etiological roles in the development of sexually problematic behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-249
Number of pages19
JournalResidential Treatment for Children and Youth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded in part by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The authors wish to thank Gary McClelland, PhD and Gene Griffin, PhD for their assistance on this project.


  • child welfare
  • childhood trauma
  • problematic sexual behavior
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual aggression
  • sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Law


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