New York, Jan 15: Girls who are emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused early in their lives report riskier sexual behaviour during adolescence, a new study suggests.
The findings indicates the risky sexual behaviours included not using condoms, having five or more lifetime partners, having sex in return for money, having sex with someone known to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease, having a partner at least five years older than themselves, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“This study provides unique information about patterns of abuse and neglect and underscores the need for better and more comprehensive tools in clinical and research settings,” said researcher Li Niu from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the US.
For the study, published in the journal Child Development, the team examined how different categories of maltreatment were related to changes in risky sexual behaviours between ages 13 and 23.
This study measured self-reported childhood maltreatment among 882 sexually active adolescents and young adults every six months.
The team suggested that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviours than peers who reported low maltreatment.
Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviours over time.
The girls who experienced moderate emotional neglect, which is the most common form of child maltreatment, may develop riskier behaviours than their peers who were not neglected because emotional neglect may interfere with the development of a secure bond with a parent and the self-esteem that bond produces; the lack of these may precipitate the onset and risky patterns of sexual behaviour during middle adolescence, according to the study.
Contrary to other research, the study did not find different sexual behaviours between girls and young women who reported severe physical and emotional abuse and those in the low-maltreatment group.