Telling a trusted adult: Factors associated with the likelihood of disclosing child sexual abuse prior to and during a forensic interview

Hanna M. Grandgenett, Samantha L. Pittenger, Emily R. Dworkin, David J. Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Many child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors delay or withhold disclosure of their abuse, even when presenting for formal investigation interviews. Objective: This study examined factors that relate to the CSA disclosure process. Participants and Settings: Participants were CSA victims (N = 1,732) presenting to a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) for a forensic interview. Method: We tested a structural model to predict disclosure before and during a forensic interview using secondary data analysis. Results: Youth were less likely to disclose before a forensic interview if they witnessed domestic violence (β = -.233, p < .05). Caregivers were less likely to believe the abuse allegation if the alleged perpetrator resided in the home β = -.386, p < .05) and more likely to believe if the youth made a prior disclosure (β = .286, p < .05). Youth were more likely to disclose during the forensic interview if they were older (β = .388, p < .05), if the alleged perpetrator resided in their home (β = .209, p < .05), if they disclosed prior (β = .254, p < .05), and if their caregiver believed the allegation (β = .213, p <. 05). The alleged perpetrator residing in the youth's home (β = -0.082, p < .05) and making a prior disclosure (β = 0.060, p < .05) were both indirectly associated with forensic interview disclosure through caregiver belief. Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of the family context and caregiver belief in the disclosure process for youth involved in formal CSA investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104193
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Abuse discovery
  • Caregiver belief
  • Disclosure
  • Forensic interview
  • Sexual abuse
  • Structural equation model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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