Author(s): Wyatt GE, Peters SD
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Abstract Despite efforts to promote uniform criteria for defining child sexual abuse, there are still variations in the definitions adopted by individual researchers. This paper focuses on four representative studies, describes differences in the definitions used and examines how such differences may contribute to discrepancies in the estimated prevalence of abuse. Similarities and dissimilarities are identified in several areas: the upper age limit for child sexual abuse, the criteria used to define a given sexual experience as abusive, the inclusion or exclusion of experiences involving age peers, and the use of different criteria for incidents occurring during adolescence. Prevalence rates from one study, which used a slightly less restrictive definition of abuse, were recalculated based on the definitions of other researchers. This resulted in a 14\% decrease in the number of individuals identified as abused. While this is a substantial change, it accounts for only a portion of the discrepancy in prevalence rates, suggesting that other factors, such as methodological differences, need to be examined with regard to their impact on prevalence rates. Historical and legal issues pertaining to the definition of child sexual abuse are also discussed.
This article was published in Child Abuse Negl
and referenced in International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology