Sexual Functioning Among Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors From an Attachment Perspective

Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan*, Yael Lahav

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Despite the fact that childhood sexual abuse can affect a survivor's sexual functioning in adulthood, few studies have examined survivors' adult sexual functioning from the perspective of attachment theory. Aim: The present study sought to examine how sexual abuse in childhood might shape the associations between attachment insecurities and sexual functioning among adults. Methods: The study sample consisted of 265 participants (166 women and 99 men), 45 (16.9%) of whom were classified as survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Participants completed an online questionnaire about their history of childhood sexual abuse, attachment insecurities, and sexual functioning over the past 6 months. Outcomes: The findings of the present study suggest that attachment insecurities may have unique implications for sexual functioning among survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Results: Findings indicated that a history of childhood sexual abuse significantly moderated the associations between attachment insecurities and sexual functioning. Whereas the effect of attachment avoidance in predicting sexual desire was not significant among nonabused participants, it was significant among survivors; specifically, higher levels of attachment avoidance predicted lower levels of sexual desire. A different pattern was found for attachment anxiety. Although attachment anxiety did not predict vaginal lubrication/penile erection among nonabused participants, it had significant effects among survivors; specifically, higher levels of attachment anxiety predicted higher levels of vaginal lubrication/penile erection. Clinical Translation: Findings from the present study may help facilitate sex therapy interventions for childhood sexual abuse survivors, from an attachment theory perspective. Strengths & Limitations: The study included a nonclinical, convenience sample and used self-report measures, which are highly subjective and increase the possibility of social-desirability biases. However, on the plus side, it relied on simple, short, self-report questionnaires that are accessible and can be easily used by professionals to examine a survivor's current condition relative to any of the variables, establish intervention goals, and evaluate treatment. Conclusion: A history of childhood sexual abuse is related to 2 opposite patterns of association between attachment insecurity (depending on type) and sexual functioning. Gewirtz-Meydan A, Lahav Y. Sexual Functioning Among Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors From an Attachment Perspective. J Sex Med 2020;17:1370–1382.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1370-1382
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Volume17
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Sexual functioning

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