1998: The Meta-Analysis
Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using
Rind, B., Tromovitch, Ph. & Bauserman, R.,
in: Psychological Bulletin 1998, Vol 124, No 1, pp 22-53.
lay persons and professionals believe that child sexual abuse (CSA) causes
intense harm, regardless of gender, pervasively in the general population. The
authors examined this belief by reviewing 59 studies based on college samples.
Meta-analyses revealed that students with CSA were, on average, slightly less
well adjusted than controls. However, this poorer adjustment could not be
attributed to CSA because family environment (FE) was consistently confounded
with CSA, FE explained considerably more adjustment variance than CSA, and
CSA-adjustment relations generally became nonsignificant when studies controlled
for FE. Self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA indicated that negative
effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much
less negatively than women. The college data were completely consistent with
data from national samples. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population
were not supported.”
authors choose for college samples, because the already mentioned similarity
with data from national samples, and because there are far more data about
college samples, so the statistical validity could be high.
The authors chose college samples, because of the
already mentioned similarity with data from national samples, and because there
are far more data about college samples, so the statistical validity could be
The researchers investigated if there was harm. There
was harm, but only in a few cases, but surely not always and pervasive. The
effect size was, statistically speaking, low: 1% for girls, 0.5% for boys, 0.81%
on average. For consensual experiences: 0.6% for girls, 0% for boys. Note, that
this is the percentage of the effect size, not the percentage of girls or boys.
The effect size for family environment was ten times higher: 8.41%. Pervasive
harm was reported by 0% of the boys and 4% of the girls. 4% for girls is 4% too
much, but it is certainly not 100% for both. There appeared to be a significant
difference in reactions to consensual and forced experiences. The boys'
reactions were, rounded off, one-third positive, one-third neutral, and
one-third negative. The girls' reactions were, rounded off, two-third negative,
one-sixth neutral and one-sixth positive.
The authors conclude that the term "sexual
abuse" does not match every childhood sexual experience. Since there is not
always harm, so there is not always abuse. They advise to use more neutral
terms. This advice is not received with thanks, as will become clear.