Child sexual abuse - A replication of the meta-analytic examination ...

The Scientific review of Mental Health Practice

Ulrich, Heather, Randolph Mickey, & Acheson Shawn
Issue2, Fall/winter 2005-2006
Paginationpp 37-51,
Type of WorkResearch report

Child sexual abuse - A replication of the meta-analytic examination of child sexual abuse by Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998)


Research conducted during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s consistently reported widely accepted negative outcomes associated with child sexual abuse. 

In 1998, Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman conducted a meta-analysis challenging the four most often reported correlates of child sexual abuse. 

The present study attempted to reexamine the four main objectives of the Rind et al. (1998) study, correcting for methodological and statistical problems identified by Dallam et al. (2001) and Ondersma et al. (2001)

The current meta-analysis supported the findings by Rind et al. (1998) in that child sexual abuse was found to account for 1% of the variance in later psychological outcomes, whereas family environment accounted for 5.9% of the variance. 

In addition, the current meta-analysis supported the finding that there was a gender difference in the experience of the child sexual abuse, such that females reported more negative immediate effects, current feelings, and self-reported effects. 

The implications of these findings, problems with replicating the Rind et al. (1998) meta-analysis, and future directions are discussed.


The meta-analysis of these effect sizes yielded a weighted mean effect size of .20 with a 95% confidence interval of .16 to .23, which is statistically significant. According to Cohen’s guidelines, this effect size estimate is small and indicates that child sexual abuse accounts for only 1% of the variance in psychological adjustment.

Both meta-analyses yielded an effect size estimate that is small according to Cohen’s guidelines, and suggests that the typical assumption that child sexual abuse results in intense and pervasive harm is not accurate.

The meta-analysis yielded 16 significant psychological correlates. The weighted mean effect sizes for these correlates were overall small in magnitude according to Cohen’s guidelines, ranging from .04 to .36. This suggests that in general, child sexual abuse victims were significantly less well-adjusted than the control participants, although the small effect sizes suggest that the harm is not intensive.

The effect size supports a significant relationship between family environment and child sexual abuse.

The statistics provide support for the possibility that family environment may have more of an effect on later psychological adjustment than child sexual abuse

Females reported significantly more negative reactions and feelings to their abuse when compared with males.

The results of the current meta-analysis support the original findings of Rind et al. (1998).
Child sexual abuse accounted for only 1% of the variance in later psychological adjustment, whereas family environment accounted for 5.9% of the variance.
In addition, significant gender differences were found for the self-reported reactions and effects, indicating that child sexual abuse is experienced more negatively by females than males.

The overall results of both meta-analyses are almost identical, and support the claim made by Rind et al. that child sexual abuse is not typically associated with intense harm in a college population.

We also found a medium association between family environment and symptoms (ES =.53), supporting the assertion by Rind et al. that within a college population, family environment is a more important predictor of psychological symptoms than child sexual abuse.

Both meta-analyses found that females viewed their abuse more negatively than males.

Direct causality between child sexual abuse and later maladjustment should not be inferred.
The assumption that child sexual abuse inevitably causes harm to the victim was not supported.

The assumption that child sexual abuse results in harm that is pervasive and intense in the child sexual abuse population is questionable.
Gender differences in the self reported reactions to and effects from child sexual abuse indicate that the experience is not equivalent for both genders.

The current study re-examined the Rind et al. (1998) meta-analysis in light of methodological criticisms. [...] This criticism was not supported in the current meta-analysis.

Child sexual abuse does not necessarily lead to long-term harm.