Child Sexual Abuse: Consequences and Implications

Gail Hornor, RNC, MS, PNP


J Pediatr Health Care. 2010;24(6):358-364. 

In This Article

Sexualized Behaviors

All forms of child abuse have been linked with the development of a variety of behavioral problems in children. Sexualized behaviors in children have been linked most closely with child sexual abuse (Putnam, 2003). Children who exhibit sexualized behavior tend to be younger and to have been sexually abused at a younger age (Mullers & Dowling, 2008; Putnam). Many sexual behaviors exhibited by children are a part of normal development; however, numerous studies have found that sexually abused children exhibit more sexualized behaviors when compared with other non-abused children (Friedrich et al., 2001, Paolucci et al., 2001). Sexual behavior in children can become a cause for concern due to particular aspects of the behavior such as frequency of the behavior, the child's demeanor while engaged in the behavior, or continuing to engage in the behavior after being asked to stop (Hornor, 2004). It is particularly alarming when a child demonstrates age-inappropriate sexual knowledge; for instance, when a 5-year-old child attempts to place his penis in the mouth, anus, or vagina of another child. Such behavior raises strong concern that the child has either observed explicit sexual behavior or has been sexually abused. A child who exhibits age-inappropriate knowledge of sex needs to be assessed for possible sexual abuse and should be reported to child protective services (CPS).


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