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Accuracy of Adult Recollections of Childhood Victimization: Part 2; Childhood Sexual Abuse

NCJ Number
Psychological Assessment Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: (1997) Pages: 34-46
Date Published
13 pages

Using data from a prospective-cohorts-design study, a large group of children who were sexually and physically abused or neglected approximately 20 years ago were followed up and compared with a matched control group; accuracy of adult recollections of childhood sexual abuse was assessed for this part of the study report.


The accuracy of adult recollections of childhood sexual abuse was assessed by the use of four measures, completed in the context of a 2-hour, in-person interview in young adulthood with 1,196 subjects. Findings show gender differences in reporting and accuracy, substantial underreporting by sexually abused respondents in general, good discriminant validity and predictive efficiency of self-report measures for women, and some support for the construct validity of the measures. The underreporting found means that there is a substantial group of people with documented histories of childhood sexual abuse who do not report these experiences when asked in young adulthood to do so. Whether this is due to loss of memory, denial, or embarrassment is not known; however, there are important implications from these findings for other researchers and clinicians. For researchers, the underreporting of childhood sexual abuse poses a concern for epidemiological research, especially that which involves a large proportion of men. For clinicians, these findings reinforce the need to develop more sensitive techniques to elicit this information from men. Consistent with much of the clinical literature based on retrospective self-reports, these results show that the way people define their early childhood experiences is important and significant in terms of understanding their current functioning. The findings reinforce the importance of considering the patients' perceptions of those early childhood experiences. For Part 1, see NCJ-166613. 8 tables and 47 references

Date Published: January 1, 1997