Is childhood sexual abuse really increasing in prevalence?
An analysis of
By W Feldman, E Feldman, JT Goodman, PJ McGrath, RP Pless, L Corsini and
Department of Pediatrics, Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa,
Volume 88, Issue 1, pp. 29-33, 07/01/1991 Copyright © 1991 by The American
Academy of Pediatrics
One controversy regarding childhood sexual abuse is whether the increased
rate of reported cases reflects a true increase in prevalence. In this report,
data obtained in the 1970s and 1980s were compared with those of the 1940s.
Using predetermined criteria for quality of information, commonality of
definitions of childhood sexual abuse, and research design, the authors reviewed
the Kinsey report published in 1953 and 19 prevalence studies reported in the
last 10 years. Interrater reliability was .97 for each paper. In spite of
differences in study designs and populations surveyed, where definitions of
childhood sexual abuse were similar, the more recent studies with the strongest
methodology reported prevalence figures similar to those of Kinsey in the 1940s,
ie, 10% to 12% of girls younger than 14 years of age. Thus it would appear that
increased reporting is due to changes in legislation and social climate rather
than a true increase in prevalence. The absence of an increase in prevalence of
childhood sexual abuse should not deter those interested in pursuing solid
research in prevention and treatment because any childhood sexual abuse is too
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