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Am J Dis Child. 1992 Jun;146(6):688-93. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1992.02160180046015.

The diagnosis of child sexual abuse.

American journal of diseases of children (1960)

H Dubowitz, M Black, D Harrington


  1. Division of General Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201.

PMID: 1595624 DOI: 10.1001/archpedi.1992.02160180046015


OBJECTIVE: To examine how the history, psychological evaluation, medical examination, and child's response to the examination contributed to a diagnosis of child sexual abuse by an interdisciplinary team.

DESIGN: Patient series.

SETTING: Subspecialty clinic for evaluating prepubertal children alleged to have been sexually abused.

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred thirty-two children alleged to have been sexually abused and their parents or guardian, evaluated consecutively in a subspecialty clinic between September 1989 and June 1990.

MEASUREMENTS/MAIN RESULTS: A social worker interviewed the parents, a psychologist interviewed the child, and a pediatrician obtained a medical history and examined the child. Parents completed a Child Behavior Check list and the child's response to the physical examination was noted. Both a disclosure by the child and abnormal physical findings were significantly and independently associated with the team's diagnosis of sexual abuse, whereas the presence of sexualized behavior, somatic problems, and the child's response to the examination did not make an additional contribution to the diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings support the need for a skilled psychological interview and a medical examination of a child alleged to have been sexually abused to make the diagnosis of sexual abuse. An interdisciplinary team appears to be a valuable approach for evaluating these children and their families.

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