Child -on -child sexual abuse: An investigation of behavioral and emotional sequelae

Janelle C Brown, University of Pennsylvania


A substantial proportion of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by adolescents and even younger children. Few states and child protective agencies, however, acknowledge juvenile perpetrators and their victims within the investigatory and substantiation guidelines regarding sexual abuse (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). Despite the lack of research evidence, victims of younger perpetrators are often perceived to be at less risk for developing a traumatic response to sexual abuse. The purpose of this study was to investigate how both the characteristics of a sexual offense and the age of the perpetrator are associated with victims' consequent behavioral and emotional functioning. The current research investigated these relationships using bivariate and multivariate analysis. Multiple regression analyses revealed that there are numerous abuse-related characteristics that predict to poor outcomes in victims of child sexual abuse. Use of force and frequency were associated with victims' self-reported levels of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress. While perpetrator age was associated with the development of sexualized behavior and externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, duration and invasiveness of abuse accounted for a greater proportion of the variance in these outcomes. Logistic regression analysis revealed that adults were more likely to commit frequent acts of abuse over a longer period of time, however, juveniles and adults were equally likely to use a given level of force and engage in invasive acts of abuse. Victims of juvenile and adult perpetrators did not present with significantly different levels of anxiety, depression, or posttraumatic stress. In the present study, 83% of the sample met clinical threshold criteria on at least one emotional or behavioral outcome. Important findings that emerged from this investigation are that victims of both adult and juvenile perpetrators suffer an array of negative, psychological and behavioral sequelae. Identification of all victims is important to make appropriate referrals, and to prevent or ameliorate difficulties associated with sexual abuse. Study limitations and implications of findings for policy and practice are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Welfare|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Brown, Janelle C, "Child -on -child sexual abuse: An investigation of behavioral and emotional sequelae" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125791.