Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Dissertation Committee Member


The current research was designed to investigate a wide range of variables which could affect the ability of elementary school children to learn and to remember child sexual abuse prevention concepts. The major questions posed for the study were: how much do the children know about child sexual abuse before participating in a prevention program, do children learn the prevention concepts after participating in the program and do they remember the concepts over time (five months). Age was considered a critical variable, so three age groups were delineated: Grades 1, 3 and 6. A smaller sample of kindergarten children were also tested, but the results with this age-group are considered exploratory. No research has yet investigated the influence of parental variables on a child learning and remembering prevention concepts. The current study looked at how parents’ participation or nonparticipation in the prevention program may affect the scores of the children and the long term retention of material. Whether parents attended prevention previews and therefore were able to reinforce prevention concepts at home was hypothesized as important in the long term integration of such information. Finally, the accuracy of a parent's perception of their child's understanding of prevention concepts was thought to be an important variable in whether parents would reinforce the learning of these concepts by discussion or by providing supplementary materials. In total, 400 children from the different age groups were included in the final data set. These children were assessed with the Children's Abuse Questionnaire (C.A.Q.) an instrument developed by the author consisting of 40 items addressing the broad range of prevention concepts discussed in the literature. A subset of 23 items from the C.A.Q., the PlayQ, consists of items directly addressed by the play, ‘Touching’. Some children were tested before the program and afterward. some were not given a pretest but were tested only after the play. Other children were tested within the same time frame as those previously mentioned. but without having seen the play. All available children were tested again five months after the last assessment to investigate whether they remembered the prevention concepts overtime. The statistical analysis indicated that children who participated in the prevention program scored significantly higher on both the PlayQ and the C.A.Q. than children who did not see "Touching'. There were significant differences between all age groups with kindergarten children scoring at about 57%, Grade 1 in the 65% range, Grade 3 in the 80% range and Grade 6 in the 90% range after having seen the play. After five months, the children who participated in the program did not forget the concepts, and, if anything, scored somewhat better than on the posttest analysis. However, one of the control groups also made unexpectedly significant increases in their scores over five months. Teachers (N-32) reported few negative reactions on the part of their students in the classrooms. They commented that students were initiating appropriate discussion about the play and its concepts, and that they had observed children being more assertive with peers who were trying to bully them. Parent reports (N-r284) indicated few negative responses on the part of the children who participated in the prevention program. Overwhelmingly, the majority of parents reported changes in their children which they saw as positive, including talking about the play and appearing more confident. Parents scored an average of 71% on the short knowledge questionnaire. They tended to underestimate the incidence and seriousness of sexual abuse. Parents of young children were likely to overestimate their child's knowledge of core prevention concepts. In terms of parental perception of their child's responses, the more knowledgeable parents more accurately predicted their child's response to key questions when age was taken into consideration. There was a significant relationship between the child's level of knowledge of prevention concepts and their parent's ability to predict how they would answer key questions, whether the parents knowledge about abuse was high or not. Sensitivity and understanding of one’s child's beliefs and responses appears, then, to be a more important relationship to a child's level of knowledge than the parent's knowledge level. In summary, the research results support the effectiveness of the play in teaching abuse prevention concepts to children, however, they also highlight the tact that some concepts are difficult for younger children to learn. The necessity for repetition of the concepts both in discussion of the materials and in the opportunity to view the presentation more than once is discussed. The importance of inviting parents to participate in prevention programs with their children is underscored.

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