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June 25, 1982

Epidemiologic Differences Between Sexual and Physical Child Abuse

JAMA. 1982;247(24):3344-3348. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320490042034

Sexual and physical child abuse are assumed to differ; however, these differences have not been well characterized epidemiologically. Furthermore, despite assumed differences, these types of abuse are often analyzed as one entity. This can have significant effects on assessment of risk and recommendations for intervention. We compared 735 cases of sexual abuse and 3,486 cases of nonsexual physical abuse confirmed by the Georgia Department of Protective Services. Sexual and physical child abuse cases differed in age, sex, and relationship of perpetrators and victims; demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of families at risk; and morbidity and mortality caused by the event. The most important recommendation based on these findings is that epidemiologically distinct forms of child abuse must be analyzed separately before intervention measures are proposed.

(JAMA 1982;247:3344-3348)