Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Tracy L. Morris

Committee Co-Chair

Elisa Krackow

Committee Member

Emily L. McCave

Committee Member

Aaron Metzger

Committee Member

Claire St. Peter St. Peter


Previous research investigating risk recognition in female victims of child sexual abuse has focused on college-aged women and young adults to the exclusion of adolescent females, who are just entering the stage where dating and sexual relationships are becoming important. Research with college-aged women and young adults has demonstrated that women with a history of child sexual abuse are less likely to detect risk cues in social environments. Understanding how adolescents perceive risky situations is important in preventing the trajectory from child sexual abuse to later adult victimization. It also is important to understand deficits in risk perception across a developmental period to better inform programs aimed at preventing sexual revictimization. In addition, coping mechanisms have been heavily studied in adults with a history of child sexual abuse but not in adolescents with the same history. The purpose of the present study was to address the current deficit in the literature regarding child sexual abuse and perception of danger cues, as well as coping strategies used by adolescents, who are victims of child sexual abuse. Seventeen adolescent females between the ages of 14 and 16 with a sexual abuse history comprised the target sample, while twenty-four in the same age range without a sexual abuse history are included in the comparison sample. Analyses indicated that there were no differences in identified risk cues between the target and comparison sample; however, a trend was observed for individuals in the target group to leave risky social situations sooner. There was a trend for individuals with higher levels of avoidant coping to leave the scene sooner than individuals with higher levels of self-destructive coping. There also was a trend for individuals with nervous/anxious coping to leave the scene sooner than individuals with self-destructive coping. Social anxiety was associated with longer latencies to leave dangerous settings in the target sample. Finally, abuse severity was positively associated with the number of identified risk cues, PTSD symptoms, and harm avoidance. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.