Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Opportunities: Parenting, Programs, and the Reduction of Risk
To date, child sexual abuse (CSA) prevention has relied largely on child-focused education, teaching children how to identify, avoid, and disclose sexual abuse. The purpose of this article is to explore how prevention opportunities can include parents in new and innovative ways. We propose that parents can play a significant role as protectors of their children via two pathways:
(i) directly, through the strong external barriers afforded by parent supervision, monitoring, and involvement; and
(ii) indirectly, by promoting their children’s self-efficacy, competence, well-being, and self-esteem, which the balance of evidence suggests will help them become less likely targets for abuse and more able to respond appropriately and disclose abuse if it occurs. In this article, we first describe why teaching young children about CSA protective behaviors might not be sufficient for prevention.
We then narratively review the existing research on parents and prevention and the parenting and family circumstances that may increase a child’s risk of experiencing sexual abuse. Finally, we make a number of recommendations for future approaches to prevention that may better inform and involve parents and other adult protectors in preventing CSA.