U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Longitudinal Study of Disclosures and Denials

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 28 Issue: 3 Dated: 2023 Pages: 462-475
Date Published

This paper reports on the authors’ longitudinal study of child sexual abuse disclosures and denials at the time of investigation compared with disclosures and denials made 20 years later, adding to knowledge about CSA disclosures that affect the legal pathways available to child victims of abuse.


In legal cases regarding child sexual abuse (CSA), children have various options, such as to disclose or deny maltreatment. When interviewed in adulthood, their accounts may be consistent with their childhood responses. Alternatively, denial in childhood could be followed in adulthood by disclosure known as “deferred disclosure,” confirming previous suspicions. Or the adults could possibly recant. The authors report on their longitudinal study of CSA disclosures and denials at Time 1 (T1) for three- to 16-year-olds. T1 CSA disclosures and denials at a forensic unit were compared to the individuals’ responses 20 years later: Time 2 (T2) at 22- to 37-years-old. They found that consistent disclosure was associated with being older at T1 and female. Deferred disclosure was significantly associated with greater T2 trauma-related symptoms. Corroboration and higher CSA severity predicted T2 recantation. Consistent denial was related to less severe CSA. The authors’ findings add to knowledge about CSA disclosures, which affect legal pathways available to child victims. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2023