1-parent households double risk of childhood sexual abuse

PHILADELPHIA -- Adult men who grew up in one-parent households are more likely to have been abused as children, according to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvanias School of Medicine. William C. Holmes, MD, MSCE, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, reports his findings in the March 13th issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"Children being raised by one parent are at a greater risk for many things as they grow up, including health risks such as poorly-controlled diabetes and asthma," said Holmes. "We now must add childhood sexual abuse to part of this risk picture."

The study adjusted for socioeconomic status, and still found that children of one-parent households were at an increased risk for childhood sexual abuse. Though all one-parent homes appeared to have imparted risk-for-abuse, risk-for-abuse in one-parent homes was higher in the lower income groups than it was in the higher income groups.

"There is definitely something about being raised by one-parent that independently contributes to the higher risk for sexual abuse. While children from lower income one-parent households are at a higher risk, better socioeconomics of the household dont make the risk go away completely."

Holmes believes that there may be a psychological and emotional aspect involved in the increased risk for all one-parent homes.

According to Holmes, single-parent homes are likely to have the parent absent a good portion of the time because she or he must work to provide all the basic necessities for the family. Unfortunately, the children of this absentee parent will likely be looking for an adult to bond with, to share experiences with. "Predators are pretty good at finding and grooming these sorts of kids," said Holmes. "They set children up over time, earn their trust, act as par

Contact: Rick Cushman
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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