IPT Book Reviews

Title: Sexuality: A Developmental Approach to Problems
Authors: Betty N. Gordon and Carolyn S. Schroeder
Publisher: Plenum Press, 1995

Plenum Press
233 Spring Street
New York, NY 10013
(800) 221-9369
$35.00 (c) $19.50 (p)

The significance of this 157-page book is caught by Friedrich in the preface when he observes that there is a strong emotional reaction to children's sexuality and lauds the courage of the authors for telling it more like it is. Children are sexual beings and it is a mistake to consider them to be innocent, asexual angels. The book depends upon the empirical evidence to demonstrate that children are much more sexual and engage in much more sexual behavior than many adults are comfortable accepting. They repeat several times that it is an error to use a child's sexual behaviors to prove or establish sexual abuse. If the content of this book had been recognized several years ago, there would likely be fewer innocent persons imprisoned for sexual abuse.

The authors are willing to tackle difficult and knotty problems. There is a chapter on the effect on children of being raised by homosexual or lesbian parents. While they offer no evidence to support it, they state there are between 6 and 14 million children with lesbian or homosexual parents. They report a review of a limited set of studies that suggest there is no adverse effect on children. However, they also acknowledge that adolescents who discover a parent is homosexual may have a more difficult time dealing with it.

The authors also clearly acknowledge that a significant proportion of children who have been sexually abused report the experience to be neutral or positive. They understand that therapists can manipulate memory and produce false memories of childhood abuse. They review the research and conclude the only therapeutic approach to abused children for which there is any empirical support is cognitive, behavioral therapy. They unequivocally state that therapists who treat children where there is an unsubstantiated allegation of abuse must not treat the child as if there had been abuse. They warn that to do so is devastating to the child.

There is a chapter dealing with sexual abuse and the mentally retarded population and the authors discuss both victims and perpetrators who are developmentally delayed. There is a chapter on assessment which contains a suggested parent questionnaire and the Child Sexual Behavior Inventory-Revised.

The book has a number of tables that present in summary form the facts about children's sexuality for which they consider there to be sufficient data to support them. These tables, while necessarily suffering from oversimplification, are very useful and helpful to a person concerned with children's sexuality. If the tables are understood as summary statements, some of which may need to qualified in individual cases, they are as good summary statements as any I have seen and better than most. The book has a good list of references and a useful index.

The concise, direct, and clear writing means this book is short, readable, and especially beneficial for professionals not trained in psychology but who need to be knowledgeable about children's sexuality. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

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