The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2 and MMPI-A) and Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Review of the Literature

Article excerpt

Personality measures of adults and adolescents who were sexually abused as children can provide valuable information of the negative effects of the abuse experience. This paper reports on the findings of studies that explore the results of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2/MMPI-A) for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The findings in female adult studies and adolescent studies show significant and clinical elevations on Scales 4 and 8 of the MMPI-2/MMPI-A for those adolescents and women who experienced childhood sexual abuse compared to their non-abused counterparts. Implications of these findings and areas of future research are discussed so as to inform clinicians to meet the needs of thousands of adolescents and adults who have survived the trauma of such abuse.

The occurrence of sexual abuse during childhood and adolescence has become an important area of exploration as professionals begin to understand the long-term negative effects of such trauma (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2006). Each child, adolescent, and adult survivor may experience varying effects from the abuse, but many similar symptoms, behaviors, and personality traits can be related to the trauma that has occurred (Elhai, Flitter, Gold, & Sellars, 2001a). Finding connections between childhood sexual abuse and short- and long-term effects on personality can allow professionals to better understand the individual and track the development of his or her life into adulthood. Such understanding then will lead to more intentional and successful treatment. There exists a high prevalence of occurrences of childhood sexual abuse, which demands a focus on the unique characteristics and needs of victims of such trauma.

Childhood Sexual Abuse

Maltreatment of children and adolescents encompass many harmful behaviors that children and adolescents experience, ranging from neglect to physical and sexual abuse. Trauma results from these experiences creating fear in a child and may cause temporary or permanent damage in the normal physical and psychological developmental processes. The amended 2003 Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defined sexual abuse as "the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children" (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2006). The trauma that surrounds and follows such neglect and abuse greatly affects the child's development and well-being and is a vital concern based on its prevalence in the United States.

Prevalence of Childhood Sexual Abuse

In the past three decades, information and research on childhood sexual abuse has only begun to enter the conversations of professionals and the general public (Eckert, 1996; Rasmussen, Martin, Sc Sorrow, 2001). Such discussions were not widespread earlier due to the stigma and embarrassment around the topic, Professionals working with survivors of trauma began to see the high prevalence and long-term devastating effects of such abuse, and the topic could no longer be ignored. Sexual abuse emerged as a clinically relevant topic in the 1970' s (Eckert, 1996; Rasmussen et al., 2001). With the increased discussion, alarming statistics emerged. Recent counts provided by the United States Health and Human Services 2004 Child Maltreatment Report reported approximately 872,000 children were abused in 2003, approximately 80,000 sexually abused (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004). In Texas, approximately 50,208 children were confirmed victims of child abuse in 2003; 7,474 were sexually abused (Prevent Child Abuse Texas, 2007).

Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Due to the prevalence of children and adolescents being impacted by sexual abuse, the negative effects create an entire population of individuals who possess unique personality characteristics that often prove to be maladaptive and pathological (Rasmussen et al. …