Home Up

Is childhood sexual abuse really increasing in prevalence? 
An analysis of the evidence

By W Feldman, E Feldman, JT Goodman, PJ McGrath, RP Pless, L Corsini and S,  Bennett

Department of Pediatrics, Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Canada.

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 much.

This article has been cited by other articles:

Paradise, J. E., Winter, M. R., Finkel, M. A., Berenson, A. B., Beiser, A. S. (1999). Influence of the History on Physicians' Interpretations of Girls' Genital Findings. Pediatrics 103: 980-986 [Abstract] [Full Text]


Home Up