Annals of sex research

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 467–484 | Cite as

The role of victim age and sexual maturity in child sexual abuse

  • R. Lang
  • A. C. Rouget
  • V. van Santen


The case records of 240 children with validated sexual abuse were compared to 113 nonabused female children matched for age and education. Most were female (91%) with 65% of the children being 10 years of age or younger. The average age for all children was 8.47 years. In this study, chronological age was compared to the five stages of sexual maturity, as defined by Tanner (1978) to determine which was better in identifying the abused children. Use of arbitrary age limits makes it difficult to identify what victim features appeal to pedophilic and incestuous men. The results indicated that the majority of child victims (67%) were Tanner stage 1's, the least sexually mature. Of special import, it is the smaller, lighter, and least sexually mature children who appear to hold the most attraction for the sexual abuse perpetrator. More sexually mature children (Tanner 4's and 5's) were more often subjected to intrusive sexual acts: digital, oral, anal, and vaginal penetration. Older girls, also, were more likely to be threatened or bribed. Though age and Tanner scores correlated 0.75, this relationship does not resolve the diagnostic problem of pedophilia. However, for children 10 years or older, the Tanner score may be more informative than chronological age as a predictor of pedophilic attraction to children. This study calls into question the almost exclusive use of chronological age as a putative criterion for diagnosing child sexual offenders.


Sexual Abuse Abuse Child Child Sexual Abuse Sexual Maturity Sexual Offender 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Juniper Press 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Lang
    • 1
  • A. C. Rouget
    • 2
  • V. van Santen
    • 3
  1. 1.Alberta Hospital Edmonton & Institute of Psychology and LawEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.University of Alberta HospitalEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Institute of Psychology & LawEdmontonCanada

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