Sex With Children Is Abuse

Comment on Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998)

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Steven J. Ondersma
Wayne State University

Mark Chaffin
 University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Lucy Berliner
University of Washington

Ingrid Cordon and Gail S. Goodman 
University of California. Davis

Douglas Barnett
Wayne State University

PsychologicaJ Bulletin Vol. 127. No 6.707-714


B. Rind. P. Tromovitch, and R. Bauserman (1998) reported a meta-analysis of the relation between sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence and psychological functioning among college students. Several aspects of their work have proven to be highly controversial, including their assertion that the relation between child sexual abuse and adjustment is quite small and their questioning of whether child sexual abuse should be labeled abuse in scientific inquiry. In this commentary, the authors summarize the controversy that has ensued, place it in a historical context, discuss the limitations of B. Rind et al.'s findings, and critique the manner in which those findings are presented. The authors also argue for the appropriateness of the term abuse and for scientific terminology that reflects rather than contradicts consensual public morality.

Table of content of this article


Socio-historical Context  

Analysis of Rind et al. (1998) 
Presentation and Interpretation of Findings 
Definition of CSA 
   - The empirical harm standard  
The moral standard 
   - Value-neutral terminology 
Science and Morality 

Scientific Responsibility and Scientific Freedom 



* Editorial note

Steven J. Ondersma, Merrill-Palmer Institute, Wayne State University; Mark Chaffin, Department of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; Lucy Berliner, Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress, University of Washington; Ingrid Cordon and Gail S. Goodman, Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis; Douglas Barnett, Department of Psychology, Wayne State University.

This article is a revised and extended version of a commentary previously published in the newsletter of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and was sponsored. in part, by the Section on Child Maltreatment of Division 37 (Child, Youth, and Family Services) of the American Psychological Association.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Steven J. Ondersma, Merrill-Palmer Institute. Wayne State University, 71 East Ferry A venue, Detroit, Michigan 48202. Electronic mail may be sent to .

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