There have been various studies based on childhood sexual abuse and relationships in adulthood. There have been studies that had shown that multiple maltreatment and loss experiences in childhood interfered with the formation of secure attachments that created adult problems in self and social functioning. Childhood maltreatment showed there was poor adult self-functioning in the form of higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem. Self blame in response to childhood sexual abuse and maltreatment in adult relationships also predicted poorer adult self and social functioning for individuals with childhood sexual abuse.
A study by Gerard McCarthy and Alan Taylor have shown that abusive childhood experiences are linked to difficulties in establishing supportive cohabiting relationships during adulthood. Their study aims to identify specific psychological factors mediating links between child abuse and adverse adult psychological functioning. Participants who had experienced child abuse were more likely to experience difficulties in adult love relationships, but self-esteem and relationship attributions were not found to be linked to child abuse. The most common effect of childhood sexual abuse during adulthood for women is rage.
A study by Susan G. Painter and Carol C. Howell studied women's sexuality after childhood sexual abuse. Researchers in this particular study interviewed women who expressed raged through their sexuality. Results indicated that rage and maladaptive behaviors are learned in childhood and carry over to adult relationships.
Although anger is common in the abused female, it is frequently pushed into unconscious at the time of the abuse. When the abused becomes aware of her anger, it has become rage. Women who were sexually abused as children grow up repressing anger; as a result they may enter adulthood totally unaware of the rage that lies within them. Researchers (Draucker, 1996; Malta, 1991) reported that childhood sexual abuse may cause negative attitudes about touch and sex that result in troublesome reactions to adult sex. Many incest survivors had struggle with their abuse unaided, and that number of those who are in prisons, mental institutions, or working in prostitution have been influenced by a history of sexual abuse. Those who have been most affected by such abuse may be unable to verbalize their pain and anger.
Child sexual abuse is a violation that affects every aspect of a child's life. Trusting relationships may be brought into question for a child once sexual boundaries have been violated. The sexually abused child experiences a pervasive anxiety that cannot be relieved by the usual self-comforting behaviors of children. Such children frequently discover that the deliberate infliction of bodily injury can provide a temporary relief from overwhelming emotional pain (Draucker, 1996; Herman, 1992).
Self-destructive behavior persists, becoming a source of great shame if discovered by others. Those who self-mutilate frequently describe a dissociation and numbness at the time of the injury, followed by a feeling of calmness. Survivors may employ such behaviors as bingeing and purging, drug abuse, or other high-risk behaviors, to relieve their emotional agony. This in turn will result in problems with adult relationships and will be difficult for the individual to have emotional feelings towards a person. Sexual abuse can also affect the survivor's ability to establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships in adulthood. The anger they feel can be turned inward toward the survivor, causing depression and suicidal thoughts.
Van-Edmond, Garnifski, Joker, and Kerkhof (1993) studied the relationship between sexual abuse and female suicidal behaviors. In a study with 158 subjects (ages 20 years and older) who had attempted suicide, they found that 50% of the subjects reported a history of child sexual abuse. These subjects also experienced serious problems in their relationships with others, their sexuality, and self-fulfillment. A Cornell University study indicated that college women who were sexually abused as children tend to have less secure and trusting relationships as adults.
They also manifest more signs of post traumatic stress disorder than college women who had no experience of childhood sexual abuse. It has been suggested that long term sexual abuse produces negative attitudes about experiences related to sex. Years after childhood sexual abuse experience can be relived as if it were recurring in the present. It is not unusual for women to unconsciously reenact certain elements of their sexual abuse in much the way as they experienced it in childhood. It may be that painful events are recreated to attempt to create a different outcome, or to seek resolution. Such reenactment may consist of unstable or violent interpersonal or sexual relationships that evoke anxiety, depression, or rage.
This supports the notion that women who are sexually abused in childhood are at greater risk for re victimization. The studies indicated above and literature supports that childhood sexual abuse does in fact affect relationships in adulthood. Because of the traumatic experience the child has experienced in the past, the individual has a difficult time in being in a relationship. It is difficult for the individual to trust or even feel comfortable within a relationship.
Studies have shown that women who were sexually abused as a child expresses her feelings through rage because of the anger built since childhood. Other findings support that multiple maltreatment such as sexual abuse in early childhood would interfere with the formation of secure attachments and adult relationship problems.