Prevalence of child sexual abuse in pediatric patients with chronic abdominal pain

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2013 May;56(5):475-80. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31828b5145.


Background and objectives: A history of sexual abuse is to be found in approximately 40% of all adult patients with gastrointestinal complaints. Data on the prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) in children with chronic abdominal pain (CAP) are lacking. The objective of this systematic review is to determine the prevalence of CSA in pediatric patients with CAP.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search in the electronic databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychInfo, and ERIC. Reference lists of relevant articles were scanned for additional citations. We selected case-control, cohort and cross-sectional studies investigating the prevalence of CSA in children with CAP, ages 0 to 18 years. Data were extracted from relevant studies, which were assessed for methodological quality by 2 independent reviewers. Prevalence of CSA was the main outcome measure.

Results: The literature search yielded a total of 269 articles. Only 2 studies met our inclusion criteria, reporting CSA in 2.1% and 8.0% of children (age range 4-21 years) with CAP. Both studies were conducted in small groups (n = 48 and n = 50) without control group(s) and did not use standardized or validated instruments for diagnosing CSA.

Conclusions: According to existing data, the prevalence of a history of CSA in pediatric patients with CAP is lower than in adult patients; however, no well-designed studies have been conducted in children. Future research is required to determine a reliable prevalence of CSA in children with CAP.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual* / statistics & numerical data
  • Chronic Pain
  • Humans
  • Prevalence