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Preschoolers’ disclosures of child sexual abuse: Examining corroborated cases from Swedish courts

Journal article
Authors Mikaela Magnusson
Emelie Ernberg
Sara Landström
Published in International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect
Volume 70
Pages 199-209
ISSN 0145-2134
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 199-209
Language en
Keywords Child sexual abuse; Children’s testimony; Police interview; Case characteristics; Preschoolers
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Young victims of child sexual abuse can – for a range of developmental, motivational and contextual reasons – have difficulties disclosing their experiences. In the present study, corroborated court cases concerning 57 preschoolers’ disclosures of sexual abuse were examined using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Together, the cases involved 53 girls and 4 boys between 2–6 years (M = 4.2, SD = 1.2) during the (first) incident of abuse. The children were between 3–7 years (M = 5.3, SD = 1.2) during their police interview. Analyses showed that many children could provide at least one central detail about the abuse to; i) informal disclosure recipients, and ii) during their police interview. However, the time up until their first disclosure was often delayed. A range of barriers for disclosing were observed in the court cases, and many young victims were assessed as reluctant during their police interview. Repeated sessions, direct questions, and other reassurances could at times facilitate the disclosure process. Other suggestions on actions and future research that may help young child abuse victims are discussed.

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