Faculty Publications

Nightmares and Flashbacks: The Impact of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children among Girls Placed in Residential Care

Nadine Lanctôt
Joan A. Reid, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Catherine Laurier


Background: Important unresolved questions remain concerning the specific vulnerabilities and intervention needs of female adolescents who experience commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), when compared to other highly vulnerable female adolescents.

Objective: This study aimed to assess differences in the level of post-traumatic symptoms reported by those who experienced CSEC during adolescence and those who did not.

Participants and setting: The study used longitudinal data collected from 125 French-speaking female adolescents who were placed in residential centers between the ages 12 and 17 years.

Method: Post-traumatic symptoms were assessed at Time 1 and Time 6, while CSEC involvement was assessed at Times 1-5. One-way ANOVAs were performed to inspect differences in the level of post-traumatic symptoms at Time 6 between the participants who reported CSEC during adolescence (n = 70; 56.0%) and those with no history of CSEC (n = 55; 44.0%). Hierarchical regressions examined the effects of CESC while controlling for age, immigration status, child sexual abuse, and post-traumatic symptoms reported at Time 1.

Results: CSEC during adolescence predicted higher levels of general post-traumatic symptoms, anxious arousal, intrusive experiences, defensive avoidance, and dissociation.

Conclusions: CSEC experiences intensify the existing vulnerabilities to traumatic sequelae that characterize female adolescents who are placed in residential care.