Research Output

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

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

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 November 2013

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS)

  • DOI:


  • Library of Congress:

    RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology


Coyle, E., Karatzias, T., Summers, A. & Power, M. (2013). Emotions and emotion regulation in survivors of childhood sexual abuse: the importance of “disgust” in traumatic stress and psychopathology. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 5doi:10.3402/ejpt.v5.23306. ISSN 2000-8066



Childhood sexual abuse; emotion; PTSD;

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