Dunedin Study finds child sex abuse doubles adulthood problems

Dunedin Study

New findings released from Otago University’s Dunedin Study show victims of child sexual abuse are likely to suffer from multiple problems in later life.

If they live that long. Suicide is often attempted.

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (also known as the the Dunedin Study) has followed the same 937 people since 1972.

It’s latest findings reveal 19 percent reported – retrospectively at the age of 26 – unwanted sexual contact before the age of 16.

The Study found the victims were one-and-a-half to two times more likely than their peers to experience adverse outcomes as an adult.

These adverse outcomes included:

  • Alcohol consumption, oral health issues, mental health issues, sexually transmitted diseases, personal relationship difficulties, financial problems and anti-social behaviour
  • Being between 2.5 and four times more likely to have attempted suicide.

The Study’s lead author, Dr Hayley Guiney, says not all survivors experienced the same negative outcomes.

Guiney also points out that the study found the chances of experiencing difficulties “across multiple life domains” increased with more severe types of abuse.

“When abuse survivors tell their own stories, they often talk about the impacts of childhood sexual abuse being felt across many different life domains in adulthood.

“Our research aligns with these personal testimonies, reflecting the considerable individual and societal burden of abuse.”

Guiney says it’s important to understand how multifaceted and long-lasting the impacts of childhood sexual abuse can be.

She hopes the Dunedin Study research highlights the value in interventions designed to prevent abuse in the first place; early interventions to help survivors as much and as quickly as possible; and the inclusion of multiple domains of functioning into assessment and treatment.

“Intervening early and supporting survivors is likely to help them avoid the potential long-term effects of those negative experiences.

“However, it is important to remember that negative childhood experiences are not a person’s destiny. A significant number of survivors do not continue to experience problems into adulthood.”

Where to get help:

  • Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What’s Up: free counselling for 5 to 19 years old, online chat 11am-10.30pm 7days/week or free phone 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 11am-11pm Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
  • OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)
  • Sexual Violence
  • NZ Police
  • Victim Support 0800 842 846
  • Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00
  • Rape Prevention Education
  • Empowerment Trust
  • HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 – push 0 at the menu
  • Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334
  • Male Survivors Aotearoa
  • Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496
  • If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

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