Childhood sexual abuse and pathogenic parenting in the childhood recollections of adult twin pairs

T. L. McLaughlin, A. C. Heath, K. K. Bucholz, P. A.F. Madden, L. J. Bierut, W. S. Slutske, S. Dinwiddie, D. J. Statham, M. P. Dunne, N. G. Martin

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Background. We examined the relationship between childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and interviewees' recollections of pathogenic parenting, testing for possible retrospective biases in the recollections of those who have experienced CSA. Methods. Information about CSA, parental divorce and interviewees' recollections of parental rejection, parental overprotection and perceived autonomy (as assessed through a shortened version of the Parental Bonding Instrument) was obtained through telephone interviews with 3626 Australian twins who had also returned self-report questionnaires several years earlier. Recollections of parental behaviours were compared for individuals from pairs in which neither twin, at least one twin, or both twins reported CSA. Results. Significant associations were noted between CSA and paternal alcoholism and between CSA and recollections of parental rejection. For women, individuals from CSA-discordant pairs reported levels of parental rejection that were significantly higher than those obtained from CSA-negative pairs. The levels of parental rejection observed for twins from CSA-discordant pairs did not differ significantly from those obtained from CSA-concordant pairs, regardless of respondent's abuse status. For men from CSA-discordant pairs, respondents not reporting CSA displayed a tendency to report higher levels of parental rejection than did respondents not reporting CSA. Other measures of parenting behaviour (perceived autonomy and parental overprotection) failed to show a clear relationship with CSA. Conclusions. The relationship between CSA and respondents' recollection of parental rejection is not due solely to retrospective bias on the part of abused individuals and, consistent with other studies, may reflect a pathological family environment with serious consequences for all siblings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1293-1302
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


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