Receptive anal intercourse (RAI), which has become increasingly common among U.S. heterosexual women, is associated with STDs, including HIV, when it is unprotected and coercive. Childhood traumatic experiences may increase sexual risk behavior, but the relationship between childhood trauma and RAI among women has not been examined.
Data from 4,876 female participants in Waves 1 (1994–1995), 3 (2001–2002) and 4 (2007–2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health were used to examine associations between nine self‐reported childhood traumas (neglect; emotional, physical and sexual abuse; parental binge drinking and incarceration; and witnessing, being threatened with and experiencing violence) and RAI during adulthood using modified Poisson regression analysis. Whether depression, low self‐esteem, drug use, relationship characteristics or sex trade involvement mediated the relationship between trauma and RAI was also explored.
Forty percent of the sample reported having engaged in receptive anal intercourse. After adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, eight of the nine childhood traumas were associated with increased risk of RAI (adjusted prevalence ratios, 1.2–1.5); the strongest association was with experience of violence. Each unit increase in the number of traumas yielded a 16% increase in RAI prevalence. In mediation analyses, only drug use and relationship factors slightly attenuated the association between childhood trauma and RAI (1.2 for each).
Women with a history of childhood trauma may be at increased risk of engaging in RAI, highlighting the importance of screening and trauma‐informed education in sexual health settings. Pathways linking childhood trauma and RAI among women are complex and warrant further research.
At the time the research was conducted, Joy D. Scheidell was a predoctoral trainee, MacRegga Severe was assistant research scientist, Kailyn E. Young was research coordinator and Maria R. Khan was associate professor—all at the Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine, New York. Typhanye P. Dyer was assistant professor and Yazmeen E. Tembunde was a doctoral student, both at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland School of Public Health, College Park.