Child abuse and sexual risk behavior in adulthood: a systematic review

Roberta Hirschmann Rafaela Costa Martins Helen Gonçalves About the authors


Child abuse is a public health problem and can lead to serious consequences, such as involvement in sexual risk behavior (SRB). The scope of this article is to identify the studies that evaluated the association between different types of child maltreatment and SRB in adulthood through a systematic review. The search was conducted in the PubMed, Web of Science, PsycNET and Lilacs databases. The inclusion criteria were: cross-sectional, cohort or case-control design; assessment of individuals who have been exposed to maltreatment before the age of 18; evaluation of SRB in adulthood. The search identified 18,951 articles, 34 of which were included in this study. The selection process was performed by two researchers independently. Studies have generally shown that sexual abuse is a risk factor for the tendency of SRB in adulthood, however there is less evidence of this association for other forms of child abuse, such as domestic violence, emotional abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment negatively influences SRB in early adulthood. Further studies are needed to evaluate this relationship longitudinally, including the different types of abuse and the possible mechanisms of this relationship.

Key words:
Sexual behavior; Child abuse; Systematic review

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