Childhood neurodevelopmental disorders and risk of coercive sexual victimization in childhood and adolescence – a population-based prospective twin study.

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Mar 23;:

Authors: Ohlsson Gotby V, Lichtenstein P, Långström N, Pettersson E

BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other related neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) have, in some previous studies, been shown to increase the risk of being sexually victimized. However, no studies have examined whether the association is driven by a general NDD phenotype versus specific diagnoses, nor the etiology of the association.
METHOD: Using a genetically informative, prospective design, we examined the association between ASD and ADHD in childhood and coercive sexual victimization up to age 18. A total of 4,500 children participating in the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS) were rated by their parents on NDDs at age 9 or 12 years, and self-reported at age 18 on lifetime experiences of coercive sexual touching and/or coercive sex. First, we regressed sexual victimization on the NDDs. Second, we regressed sexual victimization on general and specific NDD symptoms identified via a bifactor model. Third, we decomposed the observed associations into genetic and environmental parts.
RESULTS: In females, ASD was associated with an almost threefolded increased risk of coercive sexual victimization, and ADHD with a doubled risk. In males, the risk associated with ASD and ADHD was of the same magnitude but not significant. When controlling for overall NDD symptom load ASD or ADHD, no longer uniquely predicted coercive sexual victimization. The association between the NDD general factor and coercive sexual victimization was due to shared genetics.
CONCLUSIONS: General NDD symptom load, rather than specific ASD or ADHD symptoms, seems to be a moderate vulnerability factor for coercive sexual victimization. We speculate that an evocative gene-environment correlation might account for this observation, such that sexual perpetrators actively target NDD individuals.

PMID: 29570782 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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