Category: Sexual Functioning

PS14- #B63 - Adaptability Difficulties Related to Withdrawal and Attention Problems in Children With Problematic Sexual Behaviors

Saturday, Nov 18
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Sexuality | Attention | Child

Adaptability is the ability to be flexible while effectively regulating cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions to new or stimulating circumstances (Burns & Martin, 2014). High levels of adaptability have been linked to children’s positive emotions, self-efficacy, and social competence (Givertz & Segrin, 2014). Low adaptability and poor social competence are related to withdrawal (LaFreniere & Dumas, 1996), while poor cognitive ability and low self-efficacy are linked to attention problems (Cho et al., 2015; Moore et al., 2003). Further, high adaptability was linked to fewer atypicality symptoms (e.g., hearing voices; Nicpon et al., 2010). Children who exhibit problematic sexual behavior (PSB) may also experience withdrawal, attention problems, and atypicality. PSB are sexual behaviors that are developmentally inappropriate, persist despite intervention, are potentially harmful, and/or involve coercion or aggression (Silovsky, 2009). Children with PSB may be isolated and withdrawn due to social rejection or poor social skills (Gresham & Nagle, 1980) or may have experienced sexual trauma (Tarren-Sweeney, 2008), which could lead to anxiety or trauma-related symptoms that impede their concentration. Finally, children may engage in PSB as an atypical self-soothing or coping mechanism. However, no research has examined whether withdrawal, attention concerns, or atypicality are related to adaptability in children with PSB. As such, we hypothesize that children with PSB who have higher atypicality, withdrawal, and attention problems scores will have lower adaptability scores.


Participants were 135 school-aged children (63% male) referred to the Problematic Sexual Behaviors - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - School-Age clinical program (Silovsky et al., 2012). Participant age ranged from 6 to 13 years (M = 9.74, SD = 1.92). Most participants were Caucasian (44.4%), Multi-racial (22.2%), or African-American (10.4%). Most caregivers were biological (53.3%) or foster (27.4%), with females making up 86% of overall caregivers. Caregivers completed a demographics form and the Behavior Assessment System for Children - Second Edition (BASC-2; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004), which described their child’s adaptability, withdrawal, attention problems, and atypicality using T-scores.


A multiple regression assessed whether atypicality, withdrawal, and attention problems were predictive of adaptability. The model significantly predicted adaptability, F(3, 134) = 44.58, p < .05, R = .71, adjusted R square = .49. Withdrawal and attention problems significantly predicted adaptability, both p < .05. Atypicality was not significantly predictive of adaptability, p > .05.


These results indicate a relationship among withdrawal, attention problems, and adaptability in children with PSB. Children who are unable to adapt may withdraw and avoid social interaction; alternatively, they become overstimulated and lack the ability to concentrate. Contrary to our hypothesis, there was not a significant relationship between adaptability and atypicality. Results will be discussed in further detail. Limitations and clinical implications will also be presented.

Asia G. Perkins

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Natalie Flaming

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Lauren Holleyman

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Erin K. Taylor

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Jane F. Silovksy

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center