The impact of childhood gender expression on childhood sexual abuse and psychopathology among young men who have sex with men

Hidalgo, M. A.; Kuhns, L. M.; Kwon, S.; Mustanski, B.; Garofalo, R.

Child Abuse Negl. 2015 May 24; 46:103-12

Abstract

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) are a risk group highly vulnerable to HIV infection and psychiatric symptoms are direct predictors of sexual risk behavior in MSM. Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with psychiatric symptomology in adolescence, and MSM are disproportionately impacted by CSA compared to heterosexuals. Some evidence suggests that childhood gender nonconformity, a natural variation of human gender expression, is more common in MSM than heterosexual males and places MSM at greater risk for CSA. This study examined whether or not childhood gender expression moderated the association between incidents of unwanted, early sexual experiences occurring before age 13 (ESE) and current psychiatric symptomology in a community-based sample of 449 young MSM aged 16-20. Analyses revealed significant bivariate associations between ESE and psychological symptoms, and significant multivariable associations between ESE, gender nonconformity and psychiatric outcomes. Young MSM with childhood gender nonconformity may be disproportionately victimized by CSA thereby increasing their likelihood of developing psychiatric symptoms in adolescence. Early intervention addressing these factors may help reduce lifetime negative sequelae.

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