Sexual abuse in very young children: a psychological assessment in the Amsterdam Sexual Abuse Case study: a psychological assessment in the Amsterdam Sexual Abuse Case study

E.M. van Duin, E. Verlinden, T.F. Vrolijk-Bosschaart, J. Diehle, A.P. Verhoeff, S.N. Brilleslijper-Kater, R.J.L. Lindauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a worldwide problem affecting children of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. A knowledge gap exists regarding the psychological outcomes for children, boys in particular, who are abused during their early lives.
Objective: To provide a descriptive psychological profile of children who experienced sexual abuse as infants or toddlers from a male daycare worker and babysitter, and to assess the psychopathological impact on their parents. Method: Parents of children involved in the Amsterdam Sexual Abuse Case (41 parents; 44 children, age range 3–11 years, 30 boys, 14 girls) completed measures on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociation, sexual and non-sexual behaviour problems, and attachment insecurity in their children, as well as on parental psychological well-being, 3 years after disclosure. Sexual abuse characteristics were obtained from police records.
Results: We found that 3% of confirmed child victims had PTSD, 30%sexual behaviour problems, 24% internalizing problems, 27% attachment insecurity, and 18% any psychiatric disorder (including PTSD); 39%were asymptomatic. In parents,we found feelings of guilt, shame, and anger about the abuse of their child; 19% showed PTSD symptoms and 3% showed avoidant and 8% anxious
attachment problems in their intimate relationship. Parental symptomatology was related to child symptomatology, except for child sexual behaviour problems. One-quarter of confirmed child victims and 45% of parents had received psychological treatment.
Conclusions: Three years after disclosure, extrafamilial CSA in very young children was associated with sexual and non-sexual behaviour problems and attachment insecurity, but rarelywith PTSD or dissociation. For parents it was associated with PTSD symptoms and emotional reactions. Assessments and interventions should focus on the wide spectrum of problems that follow CSA, as well as on parental psychopathology and the parent–child relationship. Future follow-up assessments in our longitudinal study should provide insights into longer-term outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1503524
Pages (from-to)1503524
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean journal of psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2018

Cite this