[Paleopsych] SW: On Child Sexual Abuse

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Wed Jul 27 20:49:50 UTC 2005

Psychology: On Child Sexual Abuse

    The following points are made by J.J. Freyd et al (Science 2005
    1) Child sexual abuse (CSA) involving sexual contact between an adult
    (usually male) and a child has been reported by 20% of women and 5 to
    10% of men worldwide [1-3]. Surveys likely underestimate prevalence
    because of underreporting and memory failure [4,5]. Although official
    reports have declined somewhat in the United States over the past
    decade, close to 90% of sexual abuse cases are never reported to the
    2) CSA is associated with serious mental and physical health problems,
    substance abuse, victimization, and criminality in adulthood. Mental
    health problems include posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and
    suicide. CSA may interfere with attachment, emotional regulation, and
    major stress response systems. CSA has been used as a weapon of war
    and genocide and is associated with abduction and human trafficking
    3) Much of the research on CSA has been plagued by nonrepresentative
    sampling, deficient controls, and limited statistical power. Moreover,
    CSA is associated with other forms of victimization, which complicates
    causal analysis of its role in adult functioning. However,
    associations in larger scale community and well-patient samples have
    been confirmed after controlling for family dysfunction and other risk
    factors, in longitudinal investigations that measure pre- and post-CSA
    functioning, and in twin studies that control for environmental and
    genetic factors.
    4) Most CSA is committed by family members and individuals close to
    the child [1], which increases the likelihood of delayed disclosure,
    unsupportive reactions by caregivers and lack of intervention, and
    possible memory failure. These factors all undermine the credibility
    of abuse reports, yet there is evidence that when adults recall abuse,
    memory veracity is not correlated with memory persistence. Research on
    child witness reliability has focused on highly publicized allegations
    of abuse by preschool operators and has emphasized false allegations
    rather than false denials. Cognitive and neurological mechanisms that
    may underlie the forgetting of abuse have been identified.
    5) Scientific research on CSA is distributed across numerous
    disciplines, which results in fragmented knowledge that is often
    infused with unstated value judgments. Consequently, policy-makers
    have difficulty using available scientific knowledge, and gaps in the
    knowledge base are not well articulated.
    References (abridged):
    1. D. Finkelhor, Future Child. 4, 31 (1994)
    2. World Health Organization (WHO), World Report on Violence and
    Health (WHO, Geneva, 2002)
    3. R. M. Bolen, M. Scannapieco, Soc. Serv. Rev. 73, 281 (1999)
    4. D. M. Fergusson, L. J. Horwood, L. J. Woodward, Psychol. Med. 30,
    529 (2000)
    5. J. Hardt, J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 45, 260 (2004)
    Science http://www.sciencemag.org

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