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Clin Psychol Rev. 2009 Nov;29(7):647-57. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.08.003. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

The impact of child sexual abuse on health: a systematic review of reviews.

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Child Neuropsychiatry, Psychiatry, Criminology, Department of Pedagogic, Psychological, and Didactic Sciences, University of Salento, Via Stampacchia 45/47, Lecce 73100, Italy.


A large amount of studies and literature reviews on the consequences of child sexual abuse has appeared over the past twenty years. To prevent that the inconsistency in their conclusions along with their methodological differences and limitations may create interpretative difficulties, mistaken beliefs, or confusion among all professionals who turn to this literature for guidance, this paper addresses the best available scientific evidence on the topic, by providing a systematic review of the several reviews that have investigated the literature on the effects of child sexual abuse. Seven databases were searched, supplemented with hand-search of reference lists from retrieved papers. The author and a psychiatrist independently evaluated the eligibility of all studies identified, abstracted data, and assessed study quality. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Fourteen reviews, including more than 270,000 subjects from 587 studies, were analyzed. There is evidence that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are significantly at risk of a wide range of medical, psychological, behavioral, and sexual disorders. Relationships are small to medium in magnitudes and moderated by sample source and size. Child sexual abuse should be considered as a general, nonspecific risk factor for psychopathology. The implications for research, treatment, and health policy are discussed.

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