Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

April 2020Vol. 21, No. 3Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Involves Teaching Parents to Take a More Active Role

An article in Child Maltreatment looks at the risk of child sexual abuse (CSA) suggests effective prevention must go beyond child-focused education and teach parents how to actively protect their children through supervision and involvement. Prevention and parent education are important in keeping children safe and families together.

The article advocates a twofold approach parents can take to protect their children from sexual abuse. The first is to provide adequate parental supervision and involvement. The second is to promote child self-esteem and competence to make children less likely targets for abuse. The article also explores the family circumstances that might make children less safe and recommends future approaches for child safety.

The article identifies several conditions that are necessary for CSA to occur:

  • A perpetrator who is motivated to sexually abuse a child
  • The perpetrator's ability to overcome personal internal inhibitions toward such abuse
  • The perpetrator's ability to overcome external barriers to committing sexual abuse (e.g., supervision)
  • The perpetrator's ability to overcome a child's resistance

The authors focus on helping parents and caregivers understand their role in preventing the last two conditions through strengthening a child's external barriers to abuse and their self-competence. They warn against an overreliance on child-focused education and recommend that CSA prevention be integrated into mainstream evidence-based parenting programs.

The authors recommend the following to further protect children from CSA:

  • Additional evidence on the effectiveness of current interventions to prevent CSA
  • Enhanced understanding of parental behaviors related to CSA prevention
  • Design and evaluation of innovative approaches to prevent CSA, including those that focus on parenting-focused protections

To learn more, read the article Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Opportunities: Parenting, Programs, and the Reduction of Risk (PDF - 201 KB).