child sexual abuse, relationship quality, emotional health, path model


We were interested in understanding how the effects of childhood sexual abuse, in concert with other negative childhood experiences, were carried forward into adult romantic relationships. Data from 15,831 married or cohabitating individuals were gathered via the RELATE Questionnaire. Empirical research, attachment theory, and a general model of adult relationship quality suggested that the path from negative childhood events to adult relationship quality was mediated by a number of individual and relational affect-laden variables. Results showed that childhood abuse and other family-of-origin variables work primarily through the adult survivor’s perceptions of the events of his or her childhood. This “current impact” variable, along with the current level of depression, work through an emotion-laden relationship variable—level of emotional flooding during couple conflict—to influence the relationship quality outcome variable. Treatment implications are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Walker, E. C., Holman, T. B., & Busby, D. M. (2009). Childhood sexual abuse, other childhood factors, and pathways to survivors’ adult relationship quality. Journal of Family Violence, 24, 6, 397-407.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Family Violence




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor