Psychological Reporh, 1990, 66, 1037-1038. @ Psychological Reports 1990
IS THE PREVALENCE OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE DECREASING? EVIDENCE FROM A RANDOM SAMPLE O F 750 YOUNG ADULT WOMEN CHRISTOPHER BAGLEY
Summary.-An adult recall study in Calgary, Alberta in 1988-89 of child sexual abuse used stratified, random sampling to identify 750 women ages 18 to 27 yr., divided into 10 age cohorts of approximately 75 each. Those aged 18 and 19 yr. recalled significantly less contact abuse up to age 16 than those aged 20 to 27 yr. Experiencing print or visual media on the topic of sexual abuse was associated with a decreased prevalence. It is argued that in a climate of publicity and greater understanding of help d of child sexual abuse may be desources and harmful effects, the a c ~ prevalence creasing.
While it is clear that agencies' reports of child sexual abuse have increased dramatically in the past decade, this increase is mainly due to referral and reporting practices (3). But, in addition, it has been argued that data from adult recall studies indicate an increasing prevalence of child sexual abuse since about 1950, in parallel to and possibly caused by an increase in family instability and the resulting introduction of unrelated males such as stepfathers into a child's household (3, 6). The past decade has also seen a considerable clinical and public interest in child sexual abuse, with many new programs for treating victims, various prevention programs for schools, articles and videos for children and parents, and reports of criminal trials of alleged abusers (3). Hotaling argues that periodic surveys of prevalence using the adult recall method with random samples can track both historical and recent changes in the prevalence of child sexual abuse (4). Other things being equal, the over-all prevalence of such abuse may have decreased in recent years, because of the numerous program inputs. Data from a survey of sexual abuse in childhood (up to 16 yr.) recalled by a random sample of 750 women aged 18 to 27 yr. and resident in calgary, Alberta (1, 2) has been used to test the hypothesis that in recent years there has been a significant decline in sexual abuse, perhaps reflecting increased awareness of both children and parents of the nature of sexual abuse and of ways of avoiding or stopping such abuse. Stratified random sampling obtained about 75 women in each of 10 age cohorts (18 to 27 yr.). Proportions recalling contact sexual abuse up to age 16 yr. were: aged 18 yr. when interviewed 20.8%; 19 yr. 24.3%; 20 yr. 30.5%; 21 yr. 33.3%; 22 yr. 'Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada.
24 4 % ; 23 yr. 29.4%; 24 yr. 42.0%; 25 yr. 34 7 % ; 26 yr. 35.7%; 27 yr. 35.6%. Rank correlation of age grouping by prevalence of sexual abuse was 0.82 (9 df, .05 > p > . 0 1 ) I n the 142 subjects aged 18 or 19 yr. at interview, 22.5% recalled sexual abuse, compared with 33.1% in the 608 women ages 20 to 27 yr. ( X , 2 = 5.95, p< .02). Rank-order correlation between age grouping and any exposure to visual or print presentation on child sexual abuse was -0.99 (9 df, p