8. Moderators

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Multiple regression analyses showed that the intensity of the relationship between CSA and adjustment varied reliably as a function of gender, level of consent, and the interaction of these

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two factors.

It is noteworthy that neither the level of contact nor the interaction between gender and level of contact was related to intensity. These latter results failed to provide support for the common belief that contact sex is more harmful than noncontact sex or that contact sex for girls is especially harmful.

These conclusions, however, should be viewed cautiously because of the overlapping nature of the two levels of the contact variable (i.e., contact only versus contact and noncontact sex). This same caveat applies to consent because its two levels (unwanted versus willing and unwanted) were overlapping as well. The finding that most women (72%) reacted negatively to their CSA at the time it occurred implies that most of this CSA was unwanted and that the overlap between the two levels of consent was high.

Thus, even though consent did not moderate intensity for women, a true difference as a function of consent may have been obscured. The finding that level of consent did moderate intensity for men is consistent with less overlap between the two levels of consent for men, because the majority of men (67%) reacted nonnegatively at the time. Importantly, CSA was not related to adjustment for men in the willing and unwanted level of the consent variable.

In separate moderator analyses, we examined how aspects of the CSA experience moderated self-reported reactions and effects, as well as symptoms. Although these results should be viewed cautiously because they were usually based on a small number of samples, we found that only force and incest moderated outcomes.

  • The largest relation occurred between force and self-reported reactions or effects, but force was unrelated to symptoms.
  • Incest moderated both symptoms and self-reported reactions and effects.
  • Penetration, duration, and frequency did not moderate outcomes.
  • The near-zero correlation between penetration and outcome is consistent with the multiple regression analysis finding that contact sex did not moderate adjustment.

    This result provides empirical support for Finkelhor's (1979 , p. 103) observation that our society's view of intercourse as the most damaging form of CSA is "a well-ingrained prejudice" unsupported by research. Composite measures consisting of various combinations of moderators (e.g., incest, force, penetration) showed no association with symptoms in four of five studies that constructed such measures.

    This finding is consistent with Laumann et al.'s (1994) failure to find an association between their composite variable

    (consisting of penetration, number of older partners-abusers, relatedness of partner-abuser, frequency of contacts, age when having contacts, duration of contacts)
    and adjustment for SA respondents in their study of a U.S. national sample.

    It is important to note, however, that these nonsignificant results may be attributable to the additive nature of the composite variables. Composites based on two-way or higher order interactions of moderators might have been more likely to yield significant results, particularly if the interactions included incest and force.


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