Risk factors for child sexual abuse

Danielle A. Black, Richard E. Heyman, Amy M. Smith Slep

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


We review the risk and protective factors for child sexual abuse. Overall, characteristics of perpetrators, victims, and families of victims were moderate to strong risk factors for child sexual abuse. However, it is difficult to distinguish between risk factors for extra-familial and intra-familial child sexual victimization because most of the studies combined these two types of child sexual abuse, although the risk factors for these two types of child sexual abuse most likely differ. Research in this area is difficult because etiological and prevention models of victimization would differ substantially from those of perpetration. Given the low yearly prevalence of child sexual victimization, very large samples would be necessary to obtain sufficient power. Thus, most studies have used lifetime prevalence, which may provide much useful information but which add substantial time confounds. Finally, child sexual victimization is probably a misnomer, as the nature, impact, and etiology of sexual victimization most likely differs over the large age span of childhood and gender. Because improved models and prevention programs require improved etiological models (based on knowledge of risk and protective factors), we hope that this review will focus stakeholders on the need for continued research in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-229
Number of pages27
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Intra- and extra-familial
  • Risk factor
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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