Parents are much more likely to blame and doubt their children when their child has been sexually abused by another adolescent instead of an adult, according to new research from the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
"Parents may have higher levels of blame toward their child when sexually abused by adolescents because parents have difficulty with the concept of adolescent sex offenders. Some parents may still expect the offender to be an older stranger rather than someone who their child knows, trusts, and is close in age to their child," said lead researcher Wendy Walsh, research associate professor of sociology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.
"Parents may feel their child could have done something to prevent any association with a troubled adolescent. Some parents might consider sexual acts between those close in age to be consensual and discount the possibility of abuse," Walsh said.
The research was conducted by Walsh; Lisa Jones, research associate professor of psychology at the Crimes against Children Research Center; and Theodore Cross, research professor at the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL.
The research is presented in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence in the article "Do Parents Blame or Doubt Their Child More When Sexually Abused by Adolescents Versus Adults?"
The researchers analyzed 161 cases of child sexual abuse in which the suspect was 12 or older and the child victim was 5 or older. The cases were part of data collected by Children's Advocacy Centers in 10 communities in Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.
The researchers also found parents had significantly higher levels of blame and doubt as the victim's age increased and when children were black.