Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Emotions and emotion regulation in survivors of childhood sexual abuse: the importance of “disgust” in traumatic stress and psychopathology

Coyle, Eimear; Karatzias, Thanos; Summers, Andy; Power, Mick


Eimear Coyle

Andy Summers

Mick Power


Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has the potential to compromise socio-emotional development of the survivor resulting in increased vulnerability to difficulties regulating emotions. In turn, emotion regulation is thought to play a key part in a number of psychological disorders which CSA survivors are at increased risk of developing. A better understanding of the basic emotions experienced in this population and emotion regulation strategies will inform current treatment.

This paper examines the relationships between type of emotions experienced, emotion regulation strategies, and psychological trauma symptoms in a sample of survivors of CSA.

A consecutive case series of CSA survivors (n=109) completed the Basic Emotions Scale (BES)—Weekly, General, and Coping versions; the Regulation of Emotions Questionnaire; the Post-traumatic Stress Checklist—Civilian Version (PCL-C); and the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation Outcome Measure.

Significantly higher levels of disgust than other levels of emotions were reported on the weekly version of the BES. In addition, significantly higher levels of disgust and lower levels of happiness were reported on the BES—General subscale. Regression analyses revealed that sadness, fear, disgust, and external dysfunctional coping strategies predicted global post-traumatic stress disorder and re-experiencing symptomatology measured by the PCL-C. Global distress, as measured by CORE, was predicted by the emotions of sadness, disgust, and low happiness, as well as dysfunctional regulatory strategies. In addition, preliminary exploratory factor analyses supported the structure of all three versions of the BES, with disgust explaining the largest percentage of variance, followed by happiness.

The findings highlight the utility of profiling basic emotions in understanding the strong associations between emotional phenomena, particularly the emotion of disgust and psychopathology in CSA survivors.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jun 3, 2014
Publication Date 2014
Deposit Date Mar 10, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 10, 2015
Print ISSN 2000-8198
Electronic ISSN 2000-8066
Publisher Co-Action Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 1
Article Number 23306
Keywords Childhood sexual abuse, emotion, PTSD
Public URL
Contract Date Mar 10, 2015


You might also like

Downloadable Citations