Disclosure of child sexual abuse by adolescents: a qualitative in-depth study

J Interpers Violence. 2012 Nov;27(17):3486-513. doi: 10.1177/0886260512445380. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


This qualitative study aimed to study the process of disclosure by examining adolescents from the general population who had experienced child sexual abuse (CSA). Twenty-six sexually victimized adolescents (23 girls, 3 boys; age: 15-18 years) participated in a qualitative face-to-face in-depth interview on different aspects of disclosure. A qualitative content analysis was conducted following Mayring and using the qualitative data analysis program Atlas.ti. In addition, quantitative correlation analyses were calculated to identify factors associated with disclosure. Less than one third of participants immediately disclosed CSA to another person. In most cases, recipients of both immediate and delayed disclosure were peers. More than one third of participants had never disclosed the abuse to a parent. Main motives for nondisclosure to parents were lack of trust or not wanting to burden the parents. Factors that correlated positively with disclosure were extrafamilial CSA, single CSA, age of victim at CSA, and having parents who were still living together. Negative associations with disclosure were found for feelings of guilt and shame and the perpetrator's age. Many adolescent survivors of CSA have serious concerns about disclosure to their parents and consider friends as more reliable confidants. These findings have two main implications for prevention: (1) In order to facilitate disclosure to parents, the strengthening of the child-parent relationship should be given specific attention in prevention programs, and (2) prevention programs should aim at teaching adolescents how they can help a victim if they become a recipient of disclosure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Peer Group*
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Perception
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Trust*
  • Truth Disclosure*