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Coaching Children About Sexual Abuse: A Pilot Study of Professionals' Perceptions

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal Volume: 31 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 947-959
Kathleen Coulborn Faller
Date Published
September 2007
13 pages
This study examined professionals’ beliefs about coaching children in sexual abuse cases.
Findings indicate that it is uncommon for children’s allegations of abuse to derive from coaching. Most respondents reported that they had seen fairly small numbers of coached cases, which suggests that false allegations of sexual abuse by children caused by coaching or other dynamics are uncommon. Though this study indicates that most respondents believe that they have worked on a small number of coached cases, the vast majority of respondents nevertheless think that mothers are the most likely to coach, and that they do this coaching in the context of divorce/custody disputes. The most commonly endorsed solution for situations of coaching were to provide treatment for the coached child. Participants were a convenience sample of 192 attendees at 3 national conferences and 3 workshops in 2005. Of the 192 respondents to the survey, 189 or 80 percent of the respondents indicated that they had worked on a child abuse case in which the child was coached. For most, the number of coached cases was small, 5 or fewer, but more than a fourth of respondents who answered this question indicated that they had worked on a score or more of cases involving a coached child, and 4 respondents reported 100 or more. Close to 80 percent of respondents perceived women as the adults who coach children, and 75 percent indicated custody cases as their first choice of the type of case where coaching occurs. These professionals most commonly relied on characteristics of the child’s account of abuse to decide that the child had been coached. The workshops and conferences attended by participants in this study attracted professionals supportive of children; conferences attended by professionals who question children’s allegations, such as attorneys who defend the accused, would likely report larger numbers of coached cases. Figure, tables, references