We examined (1) the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) experiences as a function of cohort and gender, (2) the prevalence of factors associated with CSA as a function of cohort and whether the association of these factors with CSA remained the same irrespective of cohort, and (3) whether any cohort differences could be explainable by cohort differences in reporting bias.
We used the responses of 4,561 men (M=29, SD=7 years) and 8,361 female (M=29, SD=7 years) Finnish participants who responded to the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire-Short Form as well as questions regarding family structure.
The prevalence of CSA experiences varied between 0.7-4.6% for men and 1.8-7.5% for women depending on the item. Younger cohorts reported less CSA as well as less of the risk factors (physical neglect and abuse, emotional neglect and abuse, parental substances abuse, not growing up with both biological parents) that were positively associated with the likelihood of CSA. The effects of these risk factors did not vary as a function of the cohort. Also, the declining trend was not explainable by social desirability being higher in the younger cohorts.
The results suggest that there is a real decline in the prevalence of CSA and it is associated with a simultaneous decline in factors associated with CSA.
Granted, the situation in Finland might be different than the rest of the world, but I still find it surprising. The sample size is rather large so it lends credibility to the findings.
Changes in the prevalence of child sexual abuse, its risk factors, and their associations as a function of age cohort in a Finnish population sample.
Child Abuse Negl. 2011 Jul;35(7):480-90. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.03.004. Epub 2011 Aug 6.
Laaksonen T, Sariola H, Johansson A, Jern P, Varjonen M, von der Pahlen B, Sandnabba NK, Santtila P.
Center of Excellence in Behavior Genetics, Department of Psychology, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland.