Research on the treatment of sexually abused children: A review and recommendations.



Objective: To review findings and conclusions from 29 studies that evaluated with quantitative outcome measures the effectiveness of treatments for sexually abused children. Results: The studies overall document improvements in sexually abused children consistent with the belief that therapy facilitates recovery, but only five of them marshal evidence that the recovery is not simply due to the passage of time or some factor outside therapy. There has yet to be a true large scale, randomized trial of treatment versus control. The studies suggest that certain problems, such as aggressiveness and sexualized behavior, are particularly resistant to change and that some children do not improve. A number of considerations that merit special attention in future sexual abuse therapy outcome research are identified, including (1) the diversity of sexually abused children, (2) the problem of children with no symptoms, (3) the possible existence of serious 'sleeper' effects, (4) the importance of family context on recovery, (5) the utility of abuse-focused therapy and targeted interventions, (6) the optimal length of treatment, (7) the problem of treatment dropouts, and (8) the development and use of abuse-specific outcome measures. Conclusions: The need for more treatment outcome research is highlighted by the rising demand for accountability in the health care system that will increasingly require professionals in the field of sexual abuse treatment to justify their efforts and their methods.



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Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry



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