||Long-Range Effects of Child and Adolescent Sexual
||Allie C. Kilpatrick
||Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. © 1992
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
365 Broadway, Suite 102
Hillsdale, NJ 07642
$49.95 (c); $22.50 (p)
Allie Kilpatrick has produced a book of ten chapters and 207 pages to
describe her retrospective study of 501 women and the long-term effects of
childhood sexual abuse. Part I has three chapters that set the stage
for the actual study report. Chapter 1 briefly reviews the history
of attitudes toward human sexuality. Chapter 2 sets out the issues
to be aware of for those employed in the field of child sexual abuse.
Chapter 3 examines what researchers who want to assess long-term effects
need to know in order to do a credible job. Part II begins with
Chapter 4, and describes the methodology used in Kilpatrick's study.
Chapter 5 describes the nature of the sexual experiences reported by the
sample of 501 adult women. The sample was primarily black and white
so Chapter 6 discusses the ethic differences that appear in the data.
Environmental factors are reported in Chapter 7 while Chapter 8 presents
the primary findings of the study on the long-range effects. The
implications of these findings are set forth in Chapter 9. Finally,
Chapter 10 draws a picture of potential future directions for research and
The book closes with five appendices, a short list of references, and a
subject index. The appendices contain a summary of the studies she
analyzed along with the questionnaires used in her research project.
(There are two separate discussions of this book, by Ralph Underwager
and by LeRoy Schultz.)
The book is described by the author, Kilpatrick, and by the author of
the Foreword, Walter Holland, as having the intention of debunking popular
myths about the long-term effects of child sexual abuse experiences.
This may be the reason for what appears to be a long delay in publication.
While there is no specific date given, it appears that the data were
collected in the early 80s. In the extensive list of references for
the volume, only 4 are dated in 1990. The bulk of the references
come from the early 80s and before.
The data from this study were first briefly presented in a 1986 article.
There Kilpatrick included the study in the classification of studies that report
primarily neutral effects of childhood sexual experiences. Here, based
upon rather sophisticated data analyses, she reports no significant differences
between women with childhood sexual experiences and those without. This is
true even when force, pressure, and guilt are factored in. Also she
reports: "For the 501 women in the study the primary reactions to the
experiences were positive" (p.113). Most women were voluntary participants
in the sexual experience.
The incidence of incest is .6% in this study, considerably less than what is
spread about in the media. Kilpatrick suggests that the frequency of
sexual abuse is declining rather than increasing. The gap of six years
between the first publication of the data and the full report in this book may
be due in part to the fact that given current child sexual abuse dogma,
Kilpatrick's findings would not be considered politically correct.
Kilpatrick's findings are indeed demythologizing. Her study is
important because it is based on a respectable sample size, uses a
community-based sample and includes all sexual experiences so peer sexual
contacts are also reported. In addition, an effort is made to avoid
biasing the responses. This book is recommended highly and should be read
carefully by all those concerned with juvenile female sexual experience.
Kilpatrick, A. (1986). Some correlates of woman's childhood
Sexual experiences: A retrospective study. The Journal of Sex Research, 22(2),
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological
Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.
This book will be disturbing to many readers. The assumption that
all children are "damaged" by their experiences is challenged by
Kilpatrick's finding that 38% of the adult respondents reported the sexual
experiences as children to be "pleasant" while only 25% reported them to
be "unpleasant." Kilpatrick also found that, although the majority
of the women stated that the experience was initiated by the partner, for
many (23% of the children 0-14 years and 39% of adolescents 15-17 years)
the women reported having been the initiator. Another surprising
finding was that only 4% of the respondents reported that they would have
liked to have had counseling.
Kilpatrick's plea to give truth a chance will probably fall on deaf ears.
The "child advocates" who believe adult-child sexual contact is always harmful
and destructive will see these findings as distracting society from its mission
to protect children. Those who believe that all sexually abused children
need psychotherapy to help them cope with the experience are not likely to
change their views. The implications of this research simply are counter
to our society's prevailing political ideology.
Obviously, the confusion about the effects of adult-child sexual contact
needs to be clarified for everyone concerned and this study provides important
information. If a given child is, in fact, not harmed by a sexual
experience with an adult, treating the child like a victim and subjecting the
child to months of feeling-expressive play therapy is likely to be iatrogenic.
Also, attorneys, social workers, and mental health experts would profit from
using Kilpatrick's findings as they apply to various states in judicial
This book, which ruptures prevailing myths, should be read by all
professionals who deal with child sexual abuse.
Reviewed by LeRoy Schultz, Emeritus Professor of
Social Work, West Virginia University.