The current prevalence of child sexual abuse worldwide: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Public Health. 2013 Jun;58(3):469-83. doi: 10.1007/s00038-012-0426-1. Epub 2012 Nov 21.


Objectives: Systematic reviews on prevalence estimates of child sexual abuse (CSA) worldwide included studies with adult participants referring on a period of abuse of about 50 years. Therefore we aimed to describe the current prevalence of CSA, taking into account geographical region, type of abuse, level of country development and research methods.

Methods: We included studies published between 2002 and 2009 that reported CSA in children below 18 years. We performed a random effects meta-analysis and analyzed moderator variables by meta-regression.

Results: Fifty-five studies from 24 countries were included. According to four predefined types of sexual abuse, prevalence estimates ranged from 8 to 31 % for girls and 3 to 17 % for boys. Nine girls and 3 boys out of 100 are victims of forced intercourse. Heterogeneity between primary studies was high in all analyses.

Conclusions: Our results based on most recent data confirm results from previous reviews with adults. Surveys in children offer most recent estimates of CSA. Reducing heterogeneity between studies might be possible by standardized measures to make data more meaningful in international comparisons.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Male