Childhood Maltreatment and Mid-Life Adult Sexuality: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study

Anat Talmon*, Ahmet Uysal, James J. Gross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


One important long-term outcome of childhood maltreatment is thought to be impairments in intimate relationships. However, the specific nature of these impairments is not well understood. To address this gap, we examined the long-term relation of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse/neglect to four key aspects of sexuality in women and men: importance of sex, intimacy in sex, pain during sex, and pleasure during sex. As part of the U.S. longitudinal National Survey of Midlife Development, 807 participants in their mid-life (410 women, 397 men) completed measures of recollected childhood maltreatment and current aspects of adult sexuality. These measures were obtained at baseline (at which time the mean age was 53.28 years (SD = 10.97) and again 10 years later. For women at baseline, emotional abuse was positively associated with pleasure, emotional neglect was negatively associated with intimacy and with pleasure, physical abuse was positively associated with pain, and physical neglect was associated with importance of sex. For men, no significant associations were found. Prospectively, for women, sexual abuse predicted increases in pleasure during sex, and physical abuse significantly predicted increases in pain during sex. For men, physical neglect significantly predicted increases in pain. We discuss these sex differences and the role these results may play in the detrimental long-term effects of childhood maltreatment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)781-795
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Intimacy
  • Pain during sex
  • Pleasure during sex
  • Sexuality


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