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Non-Abused Preschool Children's Perception of an Anogenital Examination

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect: Volume: 31 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2007 Pages: 885-894
Kari Gulla; Gred Eva Fenheim; Arne K. Myhre; Stian Lydersen
Date Published
August 2007
10 pages
The purpose of this study was to assess nonabused preschool children’s responses and perceptions to an anogenital examination (standard medical assessment in children evaluated for suspected sexual abuse).
Study findings indicate that most nonabused preschool children do not find an anogenital examination traumatic. However, the data from the parents emphasize the importance of good preparation and a child-friendly atmosphere, and the importance of allowing the anogenital examination to be performed as a natural part of the total examination. The opinion that an anogenital inspection should be avoided in well-child evaluations, fearing emotional trauma, is not supported by this study, but highlights that the results depend on how the examination is performed. An anogenital examination is usually part of the medical assessment in evaluations of child sexual abuse, and the emotional impact on the child has been discussed. Concern has been expressed that the examination itself may be frightening and traumatic, causing further distress. However, assumptions that the examinations would re-traumatize the sexually abused child have not been confirmed by research. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore how non-abused children perceived their own anogenital evaluation experience. Based on previous studies of abused children and clinical experiences, it was hypothesized that such children would not find it traumatic if performed in a child-friendly atmosphere. By including the parents’ perceptions of the examination, it was hoped to expand knowledge of which factors were of importance to the children (and the parents) to create a comfortable atmosphere for the examination. The study consisted of 158 children, predominantly girls (119), ages 5 to 6 years old, who were recruited by self-selection from a town community in Norway. Tables, references