McNair Scholars Program


Date of this Version



McNair Scholars Research Journal, 2010. University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Copyright © 2010 Tara K. Cossel


The present study aimed to document the effects of child sexual abuse among children, non-offending parents, and siblings to further address the needs of child victims and their families. Following abuse, children are often referred to Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) for mental health and other support needs. Today most sexually abused children receive homogenized treatment from CACs; however, there is variability in the needs these children and their family members present with (Finkelhor & Berliner, 1995). Research has begun to investigate the variability in symptom patterns of sexual abuse victims, finding aspects of the abuse including severity, duration, frequency, and amount of force seem to affect the types of symptoms displayed by sexual abuse victims (Kendall-Tackett et al., 1993).

This exploratory study examined the nature of presenting needs of sexually abused youth and their families. Participants were child victims, their siblings, and their caregivers seeking treatment at a Midwestern CAC. Participants were given a battery of measures that assessed mental health, efficacy, expectations, knowledge and behaviors. As we hypothesized, there was heterogeneity in the mental health and support needs of child victims and family members. Varying expectations, levels of efficacy, and mental health states of child victims, siblings and parents seem to contribute to the need for different types of treatment and support for sexually abused children and their families. Based on these findings, it would be beneficial for CACs to incorporate programs to address the varied mental health and support needs of child sexual abuse victims and their families.