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This study documents significant associations among lifetime abuse experiences, psychiatric diagnoses, and sexual risk behaviors in a multiethnic community sample of young men and women (N = 1803) in South Florida. Self-report data were collected via structured interviews as part of a longitudinal follow-up of a larger school-based study. Participants were grouped according to extent of lifetime abuse experiences. Cumulative lifetime abuse experiences were associated with increased risk for a broad range of individual lifetime psychiatric disorders, as well as cumulative lifetime psychiatric disorders. Both cumulative abuse experiences and cumulative psychiatric disorders were independently associated with (a) higher levels of sexual risk behaviors and (b) higher risk for lifetime sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Implications for selective prevention of sexual risk behaviors and STDs among young adults with histories of abuse and psychiatric disorders are discussed.


Originally published in American Journal of Community Psychology. 2004. Volume 34. Issue 1-2. Pages 147–162