The current prevalence of child sexual abuse worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Abstract

Objectives

Systematic reviews on prevalence estimates of child sexual abuse (CSA) worldwide included studies with adult participants referring on a period of abuse of about 50 years. Therefore we aimed to describe the current prevalence of CSA, taking into account geographical region, type of abuse, level of country development and research methods.

Methods

We included studies published between 2002 and 2009 that reported CSA in children below 18 years. We performed a random effects meta-analysis and analyzed moderator variables by meta-regression.

Results

Fifty-five studies from 24 countries were included. According to four predefined types of sexual abuse, prevalence estimates ranged from 8 to 31 % for girls and 3 to 17 % for boys. Nine girls and 3 boys out of 100 are victims of forced intercourse. Heterogeneity between primary studies was high in all analyses.

Conclusions

Our results based on most recent data confirm results from previous reviews with adults. Surveys in children offer most recent estimates of CSA. Reducing heterogeneity between studies might be possible by standardized measures to make data more meaningful in international comparisons.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    In references ** included as secondary source

  2. 2.

    In references * included as primary source

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Acknowledgments

We thank Bruno da Costa for translating the article written in Portuguese and Elisabeth Kiraly for the one in Hungarian. We are grateful to all the experts around the world who took the time to respond to our request for additional information on CSA in their geographical region. A list of the people contacted can be obtained from the corresponding author. We would also like to thank the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) for providing the contact details of most of the experts. This study was initiated and funded by the UBS Optimus Foundation.

Conflict of interest

None declared.

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Correspondence to J. Barth.

Appendix

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Fig. 3
figure3

Flowchart of study selection

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Barth, J., Bermetz, L., Heim, E. et al. The current prevalence of child sexual abuse worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Public Health 58, 469–483 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-012-0426-1

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Keywords

  • Child sexual abuse
  • International
  • Epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis