Child Sexual Abuse Follow-up

Updated: Jun 08, 2016
  • Author: Angelo P Giardino, MD, MPH, PhD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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For recovery from the emotional trauma associated with child sexual abuse (CSA), prognosis varies depending on a number of abuse-specific and individual and environmental factors. These factors include the following:

  • The child's inherent coping mechanisms and response to trauma and its aftermath

  • Response evident in the child's environment to the victimization

  • Age when the abuse occurred

  • Relationship of the perpetrator to the child

  • Length of time over which the abuse occurred

  • Pattern of the abuse

The response within the caregiving environment to the victimization appears to have an important impact on the ability of the child to work through the difficult issues raised by the sexual abuse.

Looking at children 5 years after presentation for sexual abuse and comparing them to a similarly aged group of children who were not abused, one study found that the children who were sexually abused displayed the following:

  • More disturbed behavior

  • Lower self-esteem

  • Increased tendency for depression

  • Increased tendency for anxiety

Retrospective studies of adults with severe personality disorders characterized by dissociation, impaired interpersonal relationships, and self-mutilation have found a high and significant correlation with histories of sexual abuse.

Prognosis related to any physical injury or infection resulting from the sexual abuse is expected to follow a typical healing course and respond to standard medical interventions.

Paolucci et al's meta-analysis of 37 studies involving 25,367 individuals reported no universal response to child sexual abuse; however, they did confirm that in most cases the experience is negative and that clear evidence proves a link between child sexual abuse and subsequent negative short-term and long-term developmental effects. [24] Paolucci et al conclude that, rather than thinking about a single, specific child sexual abuse response syndrome, the data support a much more complex, multifaceted model of traumatization.


Patient Education

For patient education information, see the Children's Health Center, as well as Child Abuse and Sexual Assault and Abuse.