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Child Abuse Negl. 1998 Sep;22(9):901-13.

Psychological disturbance and child sexual abuse: a follow-up study.

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University of Manchester School of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Research and Teaching Block, Withington Hospital, UK.



The aim of this prospective study was to identify risk factors for the development of psychological disturbance in sexually abused children, enabling recognition of the need for appropriate psychological intervention and provision.


A city-wide study of children aged 16 or under was carried out, with all cases of CSA requiring investigation within 12 months included. Data were collected on 144 children from police, social services, and pediatricians. Follow-up was by questionnaire and interview with involved professionals at 4 weeks, 9 months, and 2 years post investigation.


Initially, two-thirds of children showed emotional or behavioral indicators of disturbance, commonly sleep disturbance, temper tantrums, and depression. Over time, there was a substantial increase, with anxiety and depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse, lack of interaction with peers and sexualized behavior showing increases over the study's duration. Age, gender, abuse, and perpetrator characteristics did not show strong effects initially. Children involved in criminal proceedings were at particular risk. No improvement was evident over time.


In the absence of clear risk factors other than initial disturbance, process models involving cognitive factors may be helpful in explaining disturbance, and the need for early identification of disturbance and intervention is highlighted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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