Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Marcia Winter, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Timothy P. York, Ph.D.


The purpose of the present study was to examine if childhood sexual abuse (CSA) was associated with decreases in mean telomere length (TL), and if social support and/or optimism moderated this association. The study included 99 Caucasian female monozygotic twins, ranging in age from 19-48 (Mage = 30.5, SD = 7.8) at Time 1. Linear mixed effects models were employed to test study hypotheses. Analyses with all participants did not detect an effect of CSA exposure or severity on mean TL, nor were there effects with optimism. However, in analyses that only included women exposed to abuse, increases in social support were associated with increases in mean TL. Further, for women who experienced non-genital abuse, social support was positively associated with mean TL. Findings from the current study clarify the role of CSA in telomere attrition, and factors that may protect against the negative biological effects of CSA.


© David W. Sosnowski

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Date of Submission