Complexity of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Predictors of Current Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mood Disorders, Substance Use, and Sexual Risk Behavior Among Adult Men Who Have Sex with Men

Michael S. Boroughs, Sarah E. Valentine, Gail H. Ironson, Jillian C. Shipherd, Steven A. Safren, S. Wade Taylor, Sannisha K. Dale, Joshua S. Baker, Julianne G. Wilner, Conall O’Cleirigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


Men who have sex with men (MSM) are the group most at risk for HIV and represent the majority of new infections in the United States. Rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) among MSM have been estimated as high as 46 %. CSA is associated with increased risk of HIV and greater likelihood of HIV sexual risk behavior. The purpose of this study was to identify the relationships between CSA complexity indicators and mental health, substance use, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV sexual risk among MSM. MSM with CSA histories (n = 162) who were screened for an HIV prevention efficacy trial completed comprehensive psychosocial assessments. Five indicators of complex CSA experiences were created: CSA by family member, CSA with penetration, CSA with physical injury, CSA with intense fear, and first CSA in adolescence. Adjusted regression models were used to identify relationships between CSA complexity and outcomes. Participants reporting CSA by family member were at 2.6 odds of current alcohol use disorder (OR 2.64: CI 1.24–5.63), two times higher odds of substance use disorder (OR 2.1: CI 1.02–2.36), and 2.7 times higher odds of reporting an STI in the past year (OR 2.7: CI 1.04–7.1). CSA with penetration was associated with increased likelihood of current PTSD (OR 3.17: CI 1.56–6.43), recent HIV sexual risk behavior (OR 2.7: CI 1.16–6.36), and a greater number of casual sexual partners (p = 0.02). Both CSA with Physical Injury (OR 4.05: CI 1.9–8.7) and CSA with Intense Fear (OR 5.16: CI 2.5–10.7) were related to increased odds for current PTSD. First CSA in adolescence was related to increased odds of major depressive disorder. These findings suggest that CSA, with one or more complexities, creates patterns of vulnerabilities for MSM, including post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, and sexual risk taking, and suggests the need for detailed assessment of CSA and the development of integrated HIV prevention programs that address mental health and substance use comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1902
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 7 2015



  • Childhood sexual abuse (CSA)
  • HIV
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • PTSD
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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