Childhood Sexual Abuse and Alcohol Use Disorder

Childhood sexual abuse can have significant short- and long-term effects, including the subsequent development of alcohol use disorder. This report is an evidence-based guide on the association between childhood sexual abuse and alcohol use disorder (including alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence) as a teenager/adult. These findings will be used to assist in the decision making process regarding cover and entitlements of those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse and later developed alcohol use disorder.

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Commissioning agencies
Date of last publication
20 Jun 2016
Organisation conducting the research
Auckland UniServices Limited

Key Results

Findings from the two systematic reviews, one meta-analysis, two cohort studies, and three primary studies identified in this report showed that:

  •  There is fair quality evidence that childhood sexual abuse is associated with the development of problematic alcohol use, alcohol abuse and/or dependence with an odds ratio of between 1.4 and 5.88.
  •  Evidence from cohort studies in New Zealand and Australia suggest that exposure to childhood sexual abuse increases the risk of subsequent development of alcohol dependence and abuse.
  •  There is some evidence that increasing severity of childhood sexual abuse (i.e., childhood sexual abuse involving attempted or completed penetration) is associated with an increased rate of alcohol dependence.
  •  There is some evidence that alcohol dependence among those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse may be attributed to family background effects and genetic factors.
  •  Limitations of the current research examining the association between childhood sexual abuse and alcohol use disorder include the cross-sectional design of studies, wide variety of definitions of childhood sexual abuse used, abuse being reported retrospectively, and presence of confounding variables.

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