The "sexually abused child": Potential mechanisms of adverse influences of such a label

Gabriel Holguin, David J. Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Labeling and the effects of labeling have been extensively researched in the psychological literature in a variety of different contexts. For example, labeling has been empirically shown to lead to lowered expectancies of behavior and achievement, which can then contribute to the potential for the occurrence of a self-fulfilling prophecy with adverse consequences. Another area that has been extensively researched, with a dramatic increase in the literature base in recent history, is that of child sexual abuse (CSA). Despite various shortcomings of the research literature, the consistent findings have been identification of a variety of negative correlates and symptomatologies associated with CSA. In addition to any direct, negative effects of CSA, there may also be an additional impact from the "label" itself. Although the literature pertaining to CSA and labeling runs deep independently, efforts at addressing the issue of CSA within a labeling contextual framework have been minimal. To that end, this article examines hypothesized mechanisms of how the "sexual abuse" label may potentially have an adverse influence on the children subjected to such a label. The implications of an analysis, which addresses childhood sexual abuse from such a theoretical framework, may be a broader and more holistic understanding of the complexities and sequelae associated with CSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-670
Number of pages26
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2003


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Labeling
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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