Send to

Choose Destination
Child Abuse Negl. 2017 Oct;72:196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.08.009. Epub 2017 Aug 17.

Assessing parental understanding of sexualized behavior in children and adolescents.

Author information

Department of Psychology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia.
Department of Psychology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia. Electronic address:


The current study assessed parents' ability to identify normal, concerning and harmful sexualized behaviors in children and adolescents, as well as the parents' ability to identify and select an appropriate level of intervention. The influence of a parent's relationship with the victim or the perpetrator on the level of action taken was also examined. A cross-sectional survey incorporating a randomized experimental vignette condition determined that parents (N=244) were not able to consistently identify sexualized behaviors accurately, and they provided lower-than-recommended levels of intervention responses. Parents were best able to identify and respond to behaviors considered normal and age-appropriate, but had greater difficulty with behaviors considered concerning or harmful. Parents were significantly less able to accurately identify and respond to behaviors exhibited by very young children (in the 0-4 year-old age-bracket). In three vignette comparisons, no significant difference in the level of intervention responses was found between parents who viewed the victim as their own child and parents who viewed the perpetrator as their child; while parents who viewed both the victim and perpetrator as being their children (siblings) reported lower intervention response levels. Because a lack of accurate knowledge around risks and indicators of child sexual abuse negatively affects the ability to prevent and detect abuse, the results have implications for a shift from a forensic model of child protection towards a public health model, which emphasizes parent and community education.


Child sexual abuse; Education; Parenting; Public health model

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center