High Betrayal Adolescent Sexual Abuse and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: The Role of Depersonalization in Emerging Adults.
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Adolescent sexual abuse can interfere with healthy development. Sexual abuse that is perpetrated by close other(s)-high betrayal-can be additionally harmful, with sexual abuse being linked with dissociation and nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Depersonalization, a dissociative subtype characterized by disconnection between oneself and one’s body and/or thoughts, may further explain the role of dissociation in NSSI. The purpose of the current study was to: 1) isolate the impact of adolescent sexual abuse on NSSI; and 2) examine depersonalization as a pathway between high betrayal adolescent sexual abuse and NSSI. Participants (N = 192) were college students who completed online measures assessing sexual abuse, dissociation, and NSSI. While controlling for child sexual abuse and adult sexual abuse, adolescent sexual abuse predicted NSSI. Moreover, there was an indirect effect of high betrayal adolescent sexual abuse on NSSI through depersonalization, while controlling for child sexual abuse, adult sexual abuse, and medium betrayal (perpetrator: unclose other) adolescent sexual abuse. Findings from the current study have implications for relational cultural therapy as an evidence-informed treatment that highlights the relational harm of interpersonal trauma, while incorporating contextual elements, such as development of maladaptive coping strategies, into therapy.
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Betrayal trauma theory;NSSI;adolescence;depersonalization;dissociation;nonsuicidal self-injury;self-harm;sexual abuse