McNair Scholars Program


Date of this Version



McNair Scholars Research Journal, 2011; University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Copyright © 2011 Mollie Dittmer, Grace Hubel, & David Hansen.


The current study examines factors associated with participation and retention in a child sexual abuse (CSA) outpatient program. Participation and retention are vital if children are to receive the intended benefits of treatment designed to promote healthy coping following CSA. However, little is known about factors that impede or encourage families to consistently attend sessions. Several factors possibly related to child participation and retention were examined, including demographic variables such as income level and education, characteristics of the abuse, and parent and family pretreatment functioning. Participants in the sample included 175 children and adolescents and their non-offending primary caregivers seeking cognitive-behavioral group treatment at an outpatient clinic following disclosure of CSA by the participating child. Pretreatment assessment data and records of treatment attendance, gathered as part of a larger research endeavor evaluating the effectiveness of the treatment protocol, were utilized. The results indicated that demographic variables reflective of reduced structural barriers to treatment seeking (e.g., higher income) have a positive effect on participation and retention. Results did not indicate a relationship between abuse characteristics and participation and retention. Finally, mixed results regarding parent and family functioning emerged. While significant relationships were not found across all measures; several analyses indicated a positive relationship between parental functioning, family functioning, and participation and retention. Implications of the study’s results for clinicians who are aiming to engage families in treatment following CSA are presented. Informed about factors that promote retention and steady participation, clinicians will be able to identify and ameliorate difficulties that may lead to either inconsistent attendance or discontinued treatment.