The Effects of Childhood Abuse on Relationship Quality: Gender Differences and Clinical Implications


child abuse, marital quality, physical abuse, sexual abuse


This study examined the relationship between self‐reported childhood physical and sexual abuse, romantic relationship quality, possible gender differences, and clinical implications. Three hundred thirty‐eight women and 296 men who sought services at a university mental health clinic in the northeast region of the United States completed a 30‐minute self‐report assessment questionnaire before their first therapy session. Among the items in the questionnaire were measures of childhood physical and sexual abuse, relationship stability, problem areas in the relationship, and other demographic information. Results from structural equation modeling indicated that childhood physical abuse influenced relationship quality for both men and women whereas childhood sexual abuse did not have a significant impact on relationship quality for either gender. The results of the study indicated that there may be more gender similarities than differences in experiences of childhood abuse and relationship quality than previous research has shown.

Original Publication Citation

Larsen, C.D., Sandberg, J.G., Harper, J.M., & Bean, R. (2011) The effects of childhood abuse on relationship quality: gender differences and clinical implications. Family Relations, 60, 435-445.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Family Relations




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor