Interpreting children's labels for sexrelated body parts of anatomically explicit dolls

David P. Schor*, Abigail B. Sivan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Sexually abused children are often said to use idiosyncratic terminology when referring to sexual body parts. Anatomic dolls are often used in sexual abuse investigations, especially of younger children, with both their behavioral and verbal responses used to draw conclusions about the likelihood of sexual abuse. However, there is little information available about the responses of nonabused children to these dolls. This study characterizes the terms nonreferred children use to label sexual body parts of anatomic dolls. The study involved 144 children ages 3 through 8 years who were asked for their names for specific body parts including anus, breast, buttock, penis, scrotum, and vagina. Responses for breast, buttock, and penis were more precise than for other body parts. More than half the respondents did not have labels for anus and scrotum. The "age" and "gender" of the dolls had little effect on the children's responses. Older children had more accurate terminology than younger children for sexually related body parts except for penis and anus. For the most part, the gender of the child or the interviewer had little influence on responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-531
Number of pages9
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Anatomic dolls
  • Child sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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