n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - Toward effectiveness in services for sexually abused children in South Africa : some observations from a longitudinal study

Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



The upsurge in public concern about child sexual abuse since the late 1980s has led to under-resourced social service organisations being flooded with referrals, heightening the dangers of ineffectiveness and secondary abuse. In 1990, the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCWS) secured funding for a specialist unit, designed to incorporate features that appeared to be characteristic of successful treatment programmes. A study was undertaken to compare the effectiveness of the new service with that offered in the traditional generic practice of the JCWS, by monitoring the progress of matched groups of children. Measures used were the Self-esteem Inventory (Coopersmith 1981); the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist (Quay and Peterson 1987); and the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach & Edelbrock 1983). Zulu, Sotho and Afrikaans versions were used in addition to English. The sample consisted of 40 girls aged six to twelve years, who had been abused by adult males known to them. The study was beset by procedural and practical problems, and multiple confounding variables were involved. Analysis of the test scores produced inconclusive results. However, a study of qualitative material suggested a greatly reduced risk of secondary abuse in the specialist treatment unit as compared to the generic service. The study also produced descriptive information concerning local patterns in child sexual abuse, and links with socioeconomic conditions were explored. Weaknesses in the linkages between the social service, police, justice and health care components of the child protection system were demonstrated, and recommendations for improvement were offered.

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