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An investigation into the reliability of disclosures of sexual abuse by preschool children (under seven years of age)

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This study explored the reliability of disclosures of sexual abuse from preschool children. The study assumed the following: firstly the greater the level of trauma experienced by the child, the lower the reliability of the disclosure. Secondly, if the child had been severely threatened it was less likely that their disclosure would be reliable. Thirdly it was assumed that the more supportive the family was of the child's disclosure, the more reliable the disclosure would be. Fourthly, the study assumed that an important factor regarding reliability of a child's disclosure was the quality of the therapeutic relationship. Lastly it was assumed that the techniques used would be secondary in importance if compared with the therapeutic relationship . The research questions asked how techique, social worker and child-related variables affected the reliability of a child's disclosure of sexual abuse, and if there was a relationship between the variables and the child's ability to disclose reliably. The research included both qualitative and quantitative data and methodology. The research process was twofold. Firstly child, social worker and technique-related variables were identified from the case studies and the relationship between these variables described . Secondly, the effects of these variables on the participants' reliability in relating their sexual abuse experiences were explored. Thirty participants were selected through systematic random sampling. Participants were male and female between the ages of two and six years. The collective case study method was used and data was obtained from case records and analysed through content analysis. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used. The results reflected a relationship between the above mentioned variables. It seemed that child-related variables were important and could affect the child's ability to disclose reliably. However social worker-related variables seemed to be able to positively mediate the negative effects of some of the child-related variables. Technique-related variables seemed to be closely related to the-quality of and the specific stage of the therapeutic relationship. Techniques could be successfully used where a trusting relationship existed between the social worker and the child.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2002.


Child sexual abuse--Investigation., Interviewing in child abuse., Sexually abused children--Counselling of--South Africa., Theses--Social work.