The study led by Erin Casey, a University of Washington Tacoma assistant professor of social work, has found that victims of childhood abuse are at an increased risk of indulging in sexually coercive behaviour as adolescent or young adult.
"Although there can be physical force involved in sexual coercion, it more often involves such tactics as pressure, persuasion, insistence, manipulation and lying to have sex with an unwilling female partner," said Casey.
In the study involving nearly 5,650 males, 45 pct of the respondents reported sexually coercive behaviour.
Men who experienced only physical abuse were half as likely to engage in sexual coercion as those who did not experience any abuse.
However, the number of men who experienced only sexual abuse as a child was too small, less than one-half of 1 percent, to make any valid statistical conclusions.
"The higher the frequency of childhood abuse the more likely an adolescent or young adult was to engage in sexually coercive behaviour," she said.
"There is a lot of evidence indicating sexual coercion and aggression is a complex behaviour with an array of risk factors.
"There is this whole group of men for whom we have yet to fully understand what their risk factors are," she added.
The study also found that men who experienced childhood sexual abuse were more likely to report becoming sexually active at a young age and going on to sexually coercive behaviour.
The findings appear online in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.