ISPCAN - ICMEC Article Insights

A Systematic Review of Factors Associated with Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse

New website image 3

ISPCAN Resources

ISPCAN - ICMEC Article Insights

ISPCAN is partnering with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) to host a regularly scheduled “Article Insights" which provides practical reviews of recently published, open access articles we feel may be relevant to our members. These summaries are generally short and focus on how research may be translated into everyday practice for child protection professionals providing direct services. It helps bridge the gap between ‘research’ and ‘the workplace,’ and specifically targets professionals working with vulnerable children and families.

Article Insights Summary:

Professionals in the field of child protection have long realized that many children who experience sexual abuse do not disclose their trauma to others, and when they do, it may be after a significant delay. A great deal of research has been dedicated to identifying factors that facilitate vs inhibit disclosure. This systematic review nicely summarizes the research from 2000 to 2022 and helps us understand just how complicated the process of disclosure may be. The authors examine the evidence using a socio-ecological model of disclosure, considering factors at the individual, interpersonal, contextual and cultural levels. And importantly, they consider how the various factors interact with one another in their impact on disclosure.

Original Article Publication Source

Child Abuse and Neglect; The International Journal

Article Insights Date:
January 1, 2024

Region(s):

Global

Topics:

Child Sexual Abuse
Disclosure
ISPCAN - ICMEC Article Insights -A systematic review of factors associated with disclosure of child sexual abuse

Reviewed By:

photo-Greenbaum-Jan-2018-square-400x401
Dr. Jordan Greenbaum
Director, Global Child Health and Well Being Initiative International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) and ISPCAN Board Member

Supporting Organizations:

ISPCAN LOGO
International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
02 ICMEC Final Logo_Colored
International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children - ICMEC

Help Us Continue Providing These Valuable Resources

ISPCAN - ICMEC Article Insights

Article Title:

A systematic review of factors associated with disclosure of child sexual abuse

Authors:

Mahirah Abdul Latiff, Lue Fang *, Deborah A. Goh, Li Jen Tan

Summary:

Professionals in the field of child protection have long realized that many children who experience sexual abuse do not disclose their trauma to others, and when they do, it may be after a significant delay. A great deal of research has been dedicated to identifying factors that facilitate vs inhibit disclosure. This systematic review nicely summarizes the research from 2000 to 2022 and helps us understand just how complicated the process of disclosure may be. The authors examine the evidence using a socio-ecological model of disclosure, considering factors at the individual, interpersonal, contextual and cultural levels. And importantly, they consider how the various factors interact with one another in their impact on disclosure.
The authors identified 27 studies that met inclusion criteria, 21 of which were conducted in Western countries; 5 in Asia and 1 in an African country. They found 17 variables that showed significant association with disclosure of CSA, including the following:

Facilitators of disclosure:

  1. Older age at time of forensic interview
  2. Female survivor
  3. High IQ
  4. CSA within last 3 years
  5. Survivor resisting during abuse event(s)
  6. Male perpetrator
  7. Perpetrator is member of the clergy
  8. Supportive non-offending caregiver
  9. Acculturation (greater degree of acculturation in host culture)

Barriers to Disclosure:

  1. Older age at time of study
  2. Intellectual disability
  3. Avoidant coping mechanism
  4. Romantic relationship between survivor and perpetrator
  5. Family criminality and substance abuse
  6. Domestic violence
  7. Adherence to traditional Asian values (e.g., conformity to norms; family recognition through achievement, emotional self-control, collectivism, humility, familial piety)
  8. Minority identity

However, these factors showed complex interactions, and this is an important finding for practitioners. For example, the severity of abuse varied in its significance in impacting disclosure according to clinical vs. community study samples (Lam, 2014) and its role also varied according to gender, ethnic and cultural groups (Mordi et al., 2022). The survivor’s conviction that they would ‘be believed’ by others was found to be a significant factor in facilitating disclosure in one study (Grandgenett et al, 2021), but insignificant in another (McElvaney et al., 2020). These variations in study findings demonstrate that the process of disclosure is nuanced and depends on the interaction of many factors at the individual, interpersonal, contextual and cultural levels.  Further, we cannot use this information to predict whether any given child will disclose their abuse because results of these studies reflect groups of individuals and cannot be applied to specific children.  The likelihood of disclosure by a particular child depends on a complex interaction between multiple variables within their socio-ecological and cultural milieu. Nonetheless, the findings may help us in our efforts to prevent CSA. For example, results suggest that:

  • It is important to provide children (and adults) with knowledge about CSA so that they recognize conditions that may not fit stereotypes of victims and perpetrators and understand how to seek help.
  • Prevention efforts need to be culturally sensitive and relevant and must consider the differing attitudes and behaviors that may exist between children of different gender and age. The format of education programs may benefit from taking these differences into account.
  • It is important to be aware of, normalize and validate the existence of fear and numerous other challenges/barriers to a child’s decision to disclose their abuse.

This is an interesting and informative study, and relevant for professionals in child protection.  However, as a cautionary note, it’s important to consider that the bulk of studies come from Western populations and there is a great deal to learn from future research involving cultural groups across the globe.

References:

  1. Lam, K. Y. I. (2014). Factors associated with adolescents’ disclosure of sexual abuse experiences in Hong Kong. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 23(7), 768–791. https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2014.950398.
  2. Mordi, H., Katz, C., Tener, D., & Savaya, R. (2022). Disclosing the abuse: The effect of ethnoreligious identity on CSA disclosure in forensic interviews. Child Abuse & Neglect, 124, Article 105441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2021.105441
  1. Grandgenett, H. M., Pittenger, S. L., Dworkin, E. R., & Hansen, D. J. (2021). Telling a trusted adult: Factors associated with the likelihood of disclosing child sexual abuse prior to and during a forensic interview. Child Abuse & Neglect, 116, Article 104193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104193.
  2. M McElvaney, R., Moore, K., O’Reilly, K., Turner, R., Walsh, B., & Guerin, S. (2020). Child sexual abuse disclosures: Does age make a difference? Child Abuse & Neglect,99, Article 104121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104121

Join ISPCAN Today!

You’ll receive valuable member benefits including:

  • Access to the Member Connect Platform
  • Discounted registration to ISPCAN Congresses
  • Access to the extensive ISPCAN research library

Connect More

Member Marketplace

Knowledge Hub

Partner with Us