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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Stella Resko


Adolescents involved in child welfare systems have a greater risk of sexual victimization than their general population peers as well as a greater prevalence of intellectual disabilities. This study uses complex survey data from the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing to examine risk and protective factors associated with sexual assault and transactional sex among older adolescents involved in the child welfare system. This research examines the potential role of intellectual ability as a risk factor for these forms of victimization and social support and community environment as protective factors. Using a subset of data from older adolescents between ages 18 to 19.5 years, this study focuses on the period when adolescents transition from the child welfare system to become independent adults. Bivariate logistic regression models were used to examine these relationships. Results indicate 2.5% of the adolescents experienced a sexual assault in the past 12 months and 3.9 % had engaged in transactional sex in the past 6 months. The mean intelligence score for this group of adolescents is one standard deviation below average. Being female was associated with experiencing a sexual assault or rape in the past 12 months. Lower intellectual ability scores were associated with greater odds of engagement in paid sexual activity in the last 6 months. This study highlights the vulnerability of adolescents to sexual victimization as they transition from child welfare systems involvement and the need for enhanced supports and community connections as they exit child welfare services.

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