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Changes in the sexual self-schema of women with a history of childhood sexual abuse following expressive writing treatment.

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  • Carey S. Pulverman
  • Ryan L. Boyd
  • Amelia M. Stanton
  • Cindy M. Meston
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number2
Volume9
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)181-188
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date23/06/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Objective: Sexual self-schemas are cognitive generalizations about the sexual self that influence the processing of sexually pertinent information and guide sexual behavior. Until recently sexual self-schemas were exclusively assessed with self-report instruments. Recent research using the meaning extraction method, an inductive method of topic modeling, identified 7 unique themes of sexual self-schemas: family and development, virginity, abuse, relationship, sexual activity, attraction, and existentialism from essays of 239 women (Stanton, Boyd, Pulverman, & Meston, 2015). In the current study, these themes were used to examine changes in theme prominence after an expressive writing treatment. Method: Women (n = 138) with a history of childhood sexual abuse completed a 5-session expressive writing treatment, and essays on sexual self-schemas written at pretreatment and posttreatment were examined for changes in themes. Results: Women showed a reduction in the prominence of the abuse, family and development, virginity, and attraction themes, and an increase in the existentialism theme. Conclusions: This study supports the validity of the 7 themes identified by Stanton and colleagues (2015) and suggests that expressive writing may aid women with a history of sexual abuse to process their abuse history such that it becomes a less salient aspect of their sexual self-schemas.