Assessing parental understanding of sexualized behavior in children and adolescents

Marriage, Nathan D., Blackley, Anika S., Panagiotaros, Karlina, Seklaoui, Soraya A., van den Bergh, Jed, and Hawkins, Russell (2017) Assessing parental understanding of sexualized behavior in children and adolescents. Child Abuse and Neglect, 72. pp. 196-205.

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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.

Item ID: 49988
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0145-2134
Keywords: child sexual abuse; parenting; public health model; education
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2017 00:10
FoR Codes: 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5205 Social and personality psychology > 520599 Social and personality psychology not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920209 Mental Health Services @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920410 Mental Health @ 50%
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