Temple, Maryland, and Pennsylvania University Educators Declare: Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) Is Not Necessarily Harmful
|As if falseallegations.com
not already sufficiently politically controversial, falseallegations.com
is taking the bait found in a recent email from a rabid anti-feminist.
In the email was a link to the paper below, submitted to a symposium in
Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
At first blush, the paper is mind-blowing.
On second read, it begins to make sense.
On the third read, you want Janet Reno's head -- and possibly Walter Mondale's -- in an executioner's basket to be dumped at sea.
On the fourth read, you want a petition seeking a special prosecutor to free every innocent person langouring in prison because of false allegations procured by the misconduct of prosecutorial teams and so-called mental health workers.
On the fifth read, you want to hear what other people think about the subject of the paper.
On the sixth read, you hope that someone with more time than Attorney Johnson will use that time to organize a campaign (1) for a change in the CAPTA laws . . . to get rid of the immunity protecting those in the sexual abuse industry from civil liability and (2) to extend statutes of limitations so that victims of the sex-abuse industry would have opportunity to get back the families' fortunes expended in defending against false charges brought about by an industry out of control and fueled by mass hysteria.
And the seventh read provokes the question, Should harm be a required element of sex offenses?
Paper presented to the symposium sponsored by the Paulus Kerk, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on the 18th of December 1998
Bruce Rind, Ph.D., Department of Psychology Temple University, Robert Bauserman, Ph.D. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, State of Maryland & Philip Tromovitch, Ph.D. (cand.) Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania
|In America, starting in
mental health care professionals, politicians, law enforcement
the media, and the lay public began paying considerable attention to
sexual abuse, which we’ll often refer to in this talk as "CSA" for
Eventually, this concern spread to other countries around the world,
Holland. Much of the attention paid to CSA has focused on its possible
effects on psychological adjustment. The media, the popular press, and
the professional literature have all generally portrayed CSA as a
traumatic experience, as a "special destroyer of adult mental health."
For example, in the top journal in America for clinical psychology, the
authors of a recent article asserted that "child sexual abuse is a
event for which there may be few peers," by which they are essentially
saying that virtually nothing could be worse for a young person than to
have this experience. Some in the mental health field have even
to explain much or all of adult psychopathology as a consequence of CSA.
The common view that has emerged over the past two decades is that CSA has certain basic properties:
Before we describe our research, it is important to discuss terminology. The term child sexual abuse has been used in the psychological literature to describe virtually all sexual interactions between children or adolescents and significantly older persons, as well as between same-age children or adolescents when coercion is involved. The indiscriminate use of this term and related terms such as victim and perpetrator has been criticized by various researchers because of concerns about scientific validity. As one researcher noted, researchers have often failed to distinguish between "abuse" as harm done to a child or adolescent and "abuse" as a violation of social norms, which is a problem because it cannot be assumed that violations of social norms lead to harm. As another researcher observed, our society has tended to equate "wrongfulness" with harmfulness in sexual matters, but harmfulness cannot be inferred from wrongfulness. Still another researcher argued that the indiscriminate use of terms suggesting force, coercion, and harm reflects and maintains the belief that these interactions are always harmful, which interferes with objectively appraising them. In earlier research, we demonstrated experimentally that people who read scientific reports of nonnegative sexual interactions between adolescents and adults are biased by the use of negatively-loaded terms such as child sexual abuse.
Problems of scientific validity of the term child sexual abuse are perhaps most apparent when contrasting cases such as the repeated rape of a 5-year-old girl by her father, which undoubtedly produces serious harm, and the willing sexual involvement of a mature 15-year-old adolescent boy with an unrelated adult, which, although violating social norms, may have no implications for harm. By classifying these two very dissimilar events into the single category of child sexual abuse, a scientifically valid understanding of each is threatened.
With these caveats in mind regarding the shortcomings of the term child sexual abuse, we will nevertheless continue to use it in our talk because it is so pervasively used by the authors of the studies we examined. We will, however, return to a discussion of the validity of this term later in our presentation after we have presented our data and analyses. Having said that, based on typical current use of the term CSA, it will be defined as a sexual interaction involving either physical contact or no contact (for example, exhibitionism) between either a child or adolescent and someone substantially older, or between two peers who are children or adolescents when coercion is employed.
|Previous Literature Reviews|
In America, starting at the end of the 1970s, researchers began in earnest examining the psychological correlates of CSA. Soon, numerous such studies had been published. This in turn occasioned a new kind of research, which consisted of reviewing and synthesizing the available studies--that is, conducting literature reviews. Many literature reviews have appeared over the last 15 years. These reviews have not been unanimous in their conclusions, although a good many of them have favored the assumptions of causality, pervasiveness, intensity, and equivalence of harm, thus supporting popular impressions of CSA. Two basic types of reviews have been done: qualitative and quantitative. We’ll examine each type now.
The authors of these qualitative reviews have typically concluded that CSA is associated with a wide range of psychological problems, including anger, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, low self-esteem, relationship difficulties, inappropriate sexual behavior, aggression, self-mutilation, suicide, dissociation, and posttraumatic stress disorder, among others. They more often than not have assumed that CSA caused these problems, and have stated or implied that most persons with CSA experiences will be afflicted. Some have taken pains to emphasize that boys are just as badly affected as girls. One group of researchers called it a myth that boys are less affected than girls. Another researcher dismissed as an "exercise in futility" efforts to determine whether boys or girls are more adversely affected by CSA, and concluded that CSA "has pronounced deleterious effects on its victims, regardless of their gender." Not all reviewers, however, have agreed with these conclusions. Some have pointed to the need for caution when inferring causality, noting that CSA is so consistently confounded with family environment problems that it really is not possible to say whether the poorer adjustment found in CSA subjects compared to control subjects is the result of the CSA or poor family background. A number of reviewers have argued that CSA outcomes are variable, rather than pervasively negative.
For example, Constantine, in one of the earliest reviews, found that negative outcomes were often absent in CSA persons in nonclinical samples. He concluded that there is no inevitable outcome or set of reactions, and that responses to CSA are mediated by nonsexual factors, such as the young person’s perceived willingness when participating in the sexual encounter. And finally, a few reviewers have noted that boys tend to react much more positively or neutrally than girls.
of Qualitative Literature Reviews
"Proof" that masturbation caused mental disease was once based on observing that institutionalized psychiatric patients masturbate. "Proof" that homosexuality was a mental disorder was once based on psychiatric and prison samples. When nonclinical samples were examined, a much different and much more benign view of masturbation and homosexuality emerged. By analogy, we must also examine CSA in nonclinical populations to be able to infer whether it is generally harmful, and if so, to what degree.
Some reviews of CSA have been based on a large number of clinical samples, emboldening the reviewers to conclude that CSA is highly destructive. But bigger numbers do not necessarily bring us closer to valid knowledge. To see why, consider this famous example. In 1936 in the U.S., the Republican candidate Alf Landon ran against the Democrat candidate Franklin Roosevelt for president. Two weeks before the election, Literary Digest magazine sent out 12,000,000 postcards asking people whom they would vote for. They got 2,500,000 responses, voting 57% for Landon and 43% for Roosevelt. The actual election produced just the opposite results. What went wrong? The magazine got its sample from car registrations and telephone directories. In 1936, during the height of the depression, people with cars and phones were likely to have had money, and such people tend to be Republicans. Thus, their sample was biased. The fact that they got such a huge number of responses (2.5 million) did not compensate for sample bias. A representative sample of 1000, which is typically used today, is far better at reaching valid results. The principle is, sample size will never compensate for sample bias.
The findings of 150 clinical studies are not nearly as informative as the findings of one representative study. The focus on clinical and legal samples represents a major failing of most qualitative reviews.
Drawing conclusions from clinical and legal samples is problematic not only because these samples are not representative of the general population, but also because data coming from these samples are vulnerable to being invalid.
One problem has to do with the beliefs of the therapist. If a therapist is convinced, as many once were, that homosexuality causes maladjustment, then the therapist will be unmotivated to search for other potential causes of a homosexual patient’s maladjustment. In this way, the therapist’s belief of pathology is maintained. The same argument can be applied to CSA. In one famous example of this, psychiatrist Fred Berlin evaluated the president of American University, who had just been arrested for making obscene phone calls. Berlin heard from his patient that he had incest with his mother at age 11, but also that he had been severely beaten at random times repeatedly throughout his entire childhood. Berlin, convinced as he was in the power of CSA to create pathology, fixated on the incest as the cause of his patient’s current problems, and then used this case as just another example of how devastating CSA is. But, given the confound of much more prominent and pervasive physical abuse, his conclusions seem dubious at best.
The point of this example is that the psychiatrist’s beliefs in the harmfulness of CSA were strengthened by selective attention to evidence, which is not scientifically valid. This is not to argue that CSA is never the cause of a patient’s maladjustment, but that a therapist’s expectancies can substantially inflate the perception that CSA causes maladjustment.
Another problem has to do with precision. In the Mendel example just discussed, he used the confirming example to argue that CSA causes depression, anxiety, and so on. What he did not report was that the association in that sample between CSA and symptoms was small. This is very important information, though, because it is not valid to conclude from these results that CSA produces intense effects, as Mendel did. In these qualitative literature reviews, this has been a constant problem: studies show small but statistically significant differences and reviewers inflate the findings by claiming serious effects. What is needed is for reviewers to deal with the statistics precisely; otherwise, they are prone to exaggerate the results if they already believe CSA is highly destructive.
The common value derived from each study in the meta-analyses we’ll be discussing is called an effect size, which tells you how big the difference is between CSA and control subjects in terms of their adjustment. This is different from saying that the two groups showed a statistically significant difference, because such a difference could be very small or quite big. The effect size tells us whether the difference is small or big. If you save one guilder at store A compared to store B on a 1000 guilder item, there’s a difference, but it’s quite small. If you save 200 guilders, then that’s something. As a shopper, you want to know how much you’ll save by going to store A, not simply whether you’ll save. This is the spirit of effect size analysis.
For ease of presentation, given that many of you are not familiar with statistics, we will report effect sizes in the following way. Imagine that we have a group of people, some of whom had CSA and some of whom did not. Now, you can imagine that there is a lot of variation in both groups in terms of how well the different individuals are adjusted. Some will be very well adjusted, others moderately so, others not too well, and a few will be seriously maladjusted. If CSA had a very strong effect on adjustment, then CSA should account for at least 50% of the adjustment variability among all of the subjects. If CSA had a strong effect, it should account for at least 25%. If CSA had a medium effect, it should account for about 10%. And if CSA had only a small effect, it should account for about 1% of the adjustment variability.
One researcher, by the name of Jumper, in 1995 included student, community, and clinical samples in her meta-analysis of the relation between CSA and adjustment. She averaged the effect sizes separately for each sample-type. After correcting for some errors she made, her results were that CSA accounted for 0.8% of the adjustment variation in the student samples, 2.25% in the community samples, and 7.3% in the clinical samples. In other words, CSA was related to adjustment, but the relationship was small in the nonclinical samples and medium in the clinical samples.
In 1996, another group of researchers published a second meta-analysis. They computed average effect sizes separately for nonclinical and clinical samples. The amount of variability accounted for by CSA was 1.4% for the nonclinical samples and 3.6% for the clinical samples.
These two quantitative reviews improved over the qualitative reviews in several ways. First, they avoided subjective interpretations. Second, they included large numbers of nonclinical samples. Third, they analyzed them separately. The overall picture is this. Clinical samples are clearly different from nonclinical samples. This empirically demonstrates that it is not appropriate to generalize from clinical reports of CSA to the general population. Additionally, although CSA is related to poorer adjustment in nonclinical samples, the association is small. This means that claims that CSA pervasively produces lasting, severe psychological injury are vastly overstated.
There are some important weaknesses in these two quantitative studies, which, incidentally, were the only published meta-analyses up until a year ago, which ultimately provided the rationale for conducting our own meta-analyses.
First, very few male samples were examined--none in the second review.
Second, no analyses were presented to address whether the associations found between CSA and adjustment were caused by the CSA, as opposed to other factors such as poor family environment.
Third, no results were provided to indicate the pervasiveness of effects. That is, if CSA did have an effect, did it affect 100% of persons with CSA or 50% or 10% or some other percentage?
And fourth, no results were provided on the subjects’ reactions to their sexual experience. It is possible that some or even many did not react negatively. Popular assumptions do not allow for this possibility, but objective science must inquire, because such information speaks directly to the validity of popular assumptions about CSA.
To improve over these two meta-analyses, we conducted two of our own. We conducted these meta-analyses to test the popular assumption that, in the general population, CSA causes intense harm, which occurs pervasively and is equally negative for boys and girls. Since we were interested in CSA in the general population, we focused exclusively on nonclinical samples. This focus is justified because the two meta-analyses just discussed demonstrated that clinical samples do not generalize, as is true in most domains of behavior. To know the nature of CSA, to test whether CSA per se is harmful, it is people in the general population who have to be examined.
National Probability Samples
To repeat, our society has come to believe in the last few decades that CSA is "a special destroyer of adult mental health." This implies that, in the typical person, whether male or female, if they have experienced CSA, it will have caused intense harm. The best way to test this assumption would be to examine everyone in the entire population. We can’t do this, of course. The next best thing that we can do is to take a representative sample from the population and try to make inferences from it. In various countries, researchers have done this: they have obtained "national probability samples," which are just samples that have been chosen so as to be representative of the population of a given nation. The data from these samples regarding the relation between CSA and adjustment are very important, because they much better represent the typical case than do data from clinical samples.
A few years ago, we gathered together the results from all studies based on national samples that examined CSA-adjustment relations. Our first table (see Table 1) is a listing of these studies, showing some of their attributes. First of all, we can see that four studies were conducted in the U.S., and one each was conducted in Canada, Great Britain, and Spain. Several studies used face-to-face interviews; others were done by telephone; two used a self-administered questionnaire that subjects filled out while the researcher waited nearby; and one was a mail survey. Two studies examined only CSA that subjects felt was unwanted; the other five samples studied both willing and unwanted CSA events. As we can see in the table, sizable numbers of subjects participated in all of these studies. The percent of subjects that had experienced CSA ranged from 6% to 36% for males and from 14% to 51% for females. The percents varied so widely because the definitions of CSA in the studies also varied widely. Excluding two studies that had definitions that seemed overly broad (for example, including willing sexual experiences with siblings as CSA), the percents ranged from 6% to 15% for males with an average of 11% and from 14% to 28% for females with an average of 19%. Thus, at the present time the best available estimates for the prevalence of CSA are 11% for males and 19% for females.
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Attributes of Seven Studies Using National Probability Samples to Examine Psychological Correlates of Child Sexual Abuse
Based on actual number of respondents who participated.
reported two types of
results that were useful for evaluating the popular assumptions about
One was self-reported effects--that is, how subjects felt the sexual
had affected them in a negative, neutral, or positive way. The second
objective measures of psychological or sexual adjustment.
Let’s talk about the self-reported effects first. Table 2 shows the results of the three studies that made this inquiry. In the Badgley study, subjects were asked to tell about the first unwanted sexual experience they had, if they had one. When asked whether they had been emotionally or psychologically harmed at that time by this experience, only 7% of males with such an experience said yes, compared to 24% of females. Note that this was based on unwanted experiences, and also that this shows a substantial sex difference.
In a second study conducted by Baker and Duncan in Great Britain, subjects were asked about CSA experiences and effects that occurred before the age of 16. The following distributions were found regarding self-perceived effects (see bottom of Table 2): for the males with CSA, 4% said their experience caused permanent damage; 33% said it was harmful at the time, but with no lasting effects; 57% said it had no effect; and 6% said it improved the quality of their life. The distribution for the females with CSA was: 13% reported permanent damage; 51% said it was harmful at the time, but with no lasting effects; 34% said it had no effect; and 2% said it improved the quality of their life. These results strongly contradict popular views that CSA typically scars its victims for life: only 4% of males and 13% of females thought the harm was permanent. As we can see (in the top part of Table 2), 37% of males felt harmed in some way, meaning that 63% did not; the percents were just the opposite for females, with 64% reporting at least some harm. Once again, we see a sex difference. In the last study, Laumann asked subjects about CSA experiences they may have had before puberty. For males, 45% reported some negative effect; 70% of females reported some negative effect. Again we see a sex difference.
percentage of Male and Female Self-Reports of Negative Psychological Effects of Child Sexual Abuse in National Samples
|Together, these three
that only a minority of boys perceive some negative effect, but a
of girls do. Further, permanent harm is rare. These findings cast doubt
on the assumptions that harm is generally lasting, that harm is
(especially for boys), and that boys and girls react in an equivalent
Next, we examined the relation between CSA and psychological or sexual adjustment by examining the data that compared people with CSA to control subjects. As shown in Table 3, five of the studies provided relevant data. The effect sizes are shown in the table separately for males and females. Again, these effect sizes indicate the percent of variability in adjustment among all subjects that CSA accounts for. For males, this ranged from 0.16% to 1.44%. For females, it ranged from 0.25% to 4.00%. The average effect sizes were 0.49% for males and 1.00% for females. These results show several things. First, both males and females with a history of CSA showed poorer adjustment than control subjects. Second, although statistically significant, these differences are small. For example, for males, 99.51% of the variability in their adjustment scores would have to be explained by factors other than CSA. This result, contrary to popular assumptions, does not implicate CSA as a major factor in affecting psychological or sexual well-being in the average person with this experience.
Percent of Adjustment Variance Accounted by CSA in Studies
Using National Samples
|In summing up this
we can draw these conclusions. First, its findings are considerably
relevant to trying to understand the typical case of CSA in the general
population than are clinical findings. The results contradict the
of widespread, lasting harm. Further, these results contradict the
belief that CSA produces intense harm -- the effect sizes were small,
should have been large, or at least medium, to infer intense harm.
boys reacted much less negatively than girls, which contradicts the
that boys and girls react in an equivalently negative fashion.
The final assumption needing of scrutiny is whether the small but statistically significant differences in adjustment found between CSA and control subjects reflects the effect of CSA--that is, did CSA cause this somewhat poorer adjustment? In talking about causality, we should first review some basic methodology. In the U.S., Whites score on average 15 IQ points higher than Blacks. Can you then conclude that race causes IQ differences? If you did, you would be called a racist, and justifiably so. Blacks and Whites differ not only in their race, but in their socioeconomic status, as well as other important factors. It could well be that coming from a poorer environment produces this IQ difference, rather than race. Home environment does have a big impact on intellectual development, so it may play the role of a third variable that completely accounts for the association of the two main variables--race and IQ.
Incidentally, a 15 point IQ difference between the races can be expressed in this way: race accounts for 34% of the variability in IQ scores among Whites and Blacks. In our national samples, CSA accounted for only 1% of the adjustment variation for females and only one half of one percent for males. By comparison, race was 34 to 68 times stronger in accounting for IQ variation. Thus, if we can argue that the race difference in IQ is caused, not by race, but by a poorer home environment, then surely we could consider making this argument for CSA: that the small differences in adjustment that were found may have been attributable to differences in home environment. This is a reasonable possibility. Children in broken homes are less supervised and are more prone, and willing, to engage in counternormative behavior, such as using drugs, skipping school, or engaging in taboo sex (such as sex with adults). In this scheme, the poor home environment not only predisposes them to CSA, but also predisposes them toward becoming less well adjusted. This scenario suggests that the relation that we found between CSA and adjustment could be spurious (that is, false), or, if causal, even weaker than it was.
The researcher Finkelhor was involved in two of the national studies. He and his colleagues used statistical techniques to factor out, or control for, several other variables that might have been responsible for the statistically significant CSA-adjustment relations they found. In both studies, these relations remained statistically significant after this procedure. He and his colleagues argued that this showed that CSA really does cause poorer adjustment. In criticism of Finkelhor’s approach, however, his group did not control for variables that other researchers have shown can account for the CSA-adjustment relation. Among these variables are physical abuse and emotional neglect, which tend to be confounded with CSA--that is, occur along with CSA experiences. The researcher Wisniewski, for example, examined CSA in 32 samples of college students chosen to be nationally representative of college students in the U.S. When she applied statistical control factoring out nonsexual abuse variables, she found that the CSA-adjustment relations dropped out. She concluded that the "data do not support child sexual abuse as a specific explanation of current emotional distress. The data are best interpreted as supportive of other factors such as family violence...as having the greatest impact on current emotional adjustment." We will return to this issue of causality and statistical control when reviewing the results of our second meta-analysis.
The national samples were useful in examining popular assumptions about CSA. Some of their shortcomings, however, were that there are very few of these studies, these studies have very little data on reactions, and inadequate information to judge the assumption of causality of harm. We thus conducted a second meta-analysis based on another group of nonclinical samples--college samples. We chose college samples for several reasons. One is that these represent the largest number of nonclinical samples of the same kind. Despite the fact that persons with a college background are different from those without, we felt college samples would be useful toward answering questions about population characteristics--that is, how does the typical person with CSA react to it--because, in the U.S., at least 50% of the adult population has had some college exposure.
Another value of college samples is that these studies have generally been conducted by university researchers, who have designed their studies well, often taking into account family environment factors. This information, not systematically available in clinical studies or even the national studies, is useful for examining the causal role that CSA might play in producing negative effects. Additionally, these studies have provided a rich source of data for examining reactions to CSA experiences, not well provided in the other literature. This information is useful for examining assumptions about CSA such as pervasiveness and intensity of effects, as well as gender equivalence in reactions.
Altogether, we obtained 59 usable studies for examining CSA-adjustment relations, reactions, and self-reported effects. In examining the relation between CSA and adjustment, 54 samples were used, which included 3,254 male subjects from 18 samples and 12,570 female subjects from 40 samples. Reactions and self-reported effects were based on 783 male subjects from 13 samples and 2,353 female subjects from 14 samples.
Definitions of CSA varied across these studies. For example, 20% restricted their definition to include only unwanted CSA experiences. The remaining 80% included both willing and unwanted CSA experiences, and most often defined CSA as an age difference between partners of 5 or more years where the younger partner was less than 16 or 17 years of age. Prevalence rates for CSA, based on the various definitions, were as follows. For males, based on 26 samples with 13,704 subjects, CSA was reported 14% of the time. For females, based on 45 samples with 21,999 subjects, CSA was reported 27% of the time.
Some researchers have argued that data from college samples are not informative about the effects of the more severe forms of CSA, because college subjects experience less severe forms of CSA than do people in the general population. By going back to the national samples and pulling out the relevant data, and by going through the college samples and computing corresponding values, we were able to test this assumption.
Table 4 shows some of these results. It has been argued that severity increases from noncontact CSA, such as exhibitionism, to fondling, to oral sex, to intercourse. In the table, you can see that college subjects had just as much intercourse as national subjects--and much more in the case of males. Relatedness between the younger and older participants has also often been used as an indicator of severity, with incestuous contacts seen as the most severe.
Table 5 shows that college subjects experienced just as much incest as persons in the general population.
Another commonly used indicator of severity is frequency of CSA occurrences--that is, multiple episodes are viewed as more severe than single episodes. In both the college and national samples, about half of those who had CSA had multiple episodes, showing once again similarities in terms of severity. Our conclusion from these comparisons is that, because CSA characteristics are nearly the same in both college and national samples, using college samples to answer questions about CSA in the general population seems well justified.
Prevalence Rate Estimates of Four Types of CSA in College and National Populations
Prevalence Rate Estimates of Relationship Between CSA Respondents
and Partners/Abusers in College and National Populations
|We next examined the relationship between CSA and adjustment by meta-analyzing results across the 54 samples that provided usable statistics. Based on 15,912 subjects, the average amount of variability in adjustment scores accounted for by CSA was 0.81%, meaning that CSA failed to account for 99.19% of the adjustment variability. Nevertheless, this small difference in adjustment was statistically significant, with CSA subjects showing somewhat poorer adjustment. We next meta-analyzed the relations between CSA and adjustment separately for males and females. As you can see in Table 6, CSA accounted for 0.49% of the adjustment variability for males and 1.00% for females--exactly the same values as in the national samples. It is worth emphasizing at this point that the comparability of the college samples and the national samples is quite good in various respects: prevalence rates of CSA, types of CSA, and the magnitude of the CSA-adjustment relations. These findings indicate that college data are substantially more valuable than clinical data for attempting to understand the nature of CSA in the general population.|
Meta-Analyses of CSA-Adjustment Relations
in College Students for Males and Females
|Because a sizable
minority of the
studies restricted their definitions of CSA to unwanted sex only, we
the opportunity to examine relations between CSA and adjustment as a
of level of participation. We did this separately for males and
Table 7 shows the results. For males, when just considering samples
included all types of CSA (that is, both willing and unwanted sex), we
found that CSA accounted for only 0.16% of the adjustment variability,
which was not statistically significant. When just examining samples
the CSA was unwanted, CSA accounted for 1.69% of the adjustment
which was statistically significant. This value was greater than the
value for both willing and unwanted sex by a factor of 10.
Taken together, these two results imply that, for boys, willingly engaging in CSA is not associated with poorer adjustment. For females, on the other hand, CSA was associated with poorer adjustment whether both willing and unwanted CSA were considered together or unwanted CSA only was considered. In the former case, CSA accounted for 1.21% of the adjustment variability; in the latter, it accounted for 0.64%. We compared the four effect sizes for these four conditions and found that the effect size for males in the willing and unwanted combined condition was statistically significantly smaller than the effect sizes in the other three conditions, which were all statistically equivalent. This finding points to a sex difference, and implies that willing boys should not be grouped with girls when discussing the effects of CSA.
Meta-Analyses of CSA- Adjustment Relations in College
Students for Each Gender by Consent Combination
Note. k represents the number of samples;So, at least for boys, we see that CSA has no inevitable outcome, but depends on the context in which it occurs. To examine context further, we focused just on subjects in the college samples who had CSA to see what factors might or might not be related to their reactions or symptoms. The contextual factors we examined were the frequency of CSA episodes, their duration over time, the use of force, whether penetration occurred, and whether the CSA was incestuous.
Table 8 shows the results of our analyses. Contrary to popular assumptions, reactions were not more negative, and symptoms were not greater, with greater frequency of episodes, longer duration of these relationships, or the presence of penetration. On the other hand, the use of force and incestuous relations were related to more negative reactions and more symptoms.
|The image of CSA as portrayed in the media is that of a frail, helpless child in a state of shock after having been ravaged by an adult. We next present data relevant to assessing the validity of this image. Table 9 presents results from 10 female samples and 11 male samples on how subjects reacted, at the time, to their CSA experience. Of the 1,421 female experiences of CSA, 11% were positive, 18% were neutral, and 72% were negative. Of the 606 male experiences, 37% were positive, 29% were neutral, and 33% were negative. The results for males strongly contradict the popular image just described. The majority of boys (two-thirds) did not react negatively. For girls, the pattern was just the reverse, showing a striking sex difference. This once again provides evidence against the assumption of gender equivalence--that boys and girls react the same. In terms of negative reactions, it is important to note that such reactions can range from mild discomfort to traumatic shock. The percentages of boys and girls who react in accord with the popular image of traumatic shock would be only a fraction of the figures just presented for negative reactions.||
|We don’t know what
fraction this is,
but presumably traumatic shock would result in self-perceived negative
effects, probably of a lasting nature. We examined self-perceived
across the college samples to address this issue. Table 10 shows the
for the studies that contained this information. Self-perceived lasting
negative effects were uncommon for males.
In Condy’s study, only 16% of male subjects with CSA felt that this experience had negatively affected their current sex lives. In Fishman’s study the corresponding value was 13%, in Fritz’s study it was 10%, in Landis’ study it was 0.4%, and in West and Woodhouse’s study only one or two out of 67 felt a current negative impact on their sex lives. In terms of other types of lasting effects, in Landis’ study, none of the males felt there was any permanent harm to their emotional development. In Fishman’s study, about a quarter of the male subjects felt some negative impact on their overall life.
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