Childhood Abuse, Parenting Styles & Social Support in the Development of Depression & Sexual Risk Taking
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Research has established that the transition to college and young adulthood can be a time of both stress and also excitement, as students develop new social relationships and begin to spend less time with their parents. Although many enjoy exploring the novelty of young adulthood, research also indicates alarming rates of depression and sexual risk taking during this time, especially among those who were exposed to abuse and problematic parenting practices in childhood. This study sought to bridge these areas of research by attempting to parse out the distinct contributions of childhood abuse, parenting behaviors experienced in childhood, and current interpersonal relationship qualities on the development of depression and sexual risk taking in a sample of 282 ethnically diverse undergraduate college students. It was hypothesized that both childhood abuse and parenting behaviors would independently predict symptoms of depression and frequency of sexual risk taking behaviors. We also hypothesized that the quality of adult interpersonal relationships would moderate the effect of these childhood experiences on adult depression and sexual risk taking. Through use of hierarchical regression analysis, results show that in models including abuse, parenting behaviors and relationship qualities, physical abuse, low maternal warmth/involvement, and high partner conflict were associated with increased depression scores. In models that included abuse and parenting behaviors to predict sexual risk taking, results indicate that physical abuse was associated with increased sexual risk taking and sexual abuse was associated with decreased sexual risk taking. Additionally, high maternal harsh overcontrolling parenting and lax discipline were associated with increased sexual risk taking, and low paternal warmth/involvement was associated with increased sexual risk taking. In models that included significant abuse and parenting behaviors in tandem with current interpersonal relationships, high quality opposite-sex friendships and low opposite-sex friend conflict were associated with decreased sexual risk taking, and high quality partner relationships were associated with both increased and decreased risk for sexual risk taking behaviors. No support was found for a moderating effect of adult interpersonal relationships on the association between childhood abuse and parenting experiences on depression or sexual risk taking.
Sexual Risk Taking