IPT Book Reviews


Disclosure Processes in Children and Adolescents  Positive Review  Positive Review  Positive Review

Editor: Ken J. Rotenberg
Publisher: Cambridge University Press, 1995

Cambridge University Press
110 Midland Ave.
Port Chester, NY 10573-4930
(800) 221-4512
$44.95 (c)

Disclosure of personal experience, thought, and emotion is a central factor in interpersonal relationships. It is also most often the beginning event in dealing with accusations of child abuse. This 237-page book systematically discusses disclosure processes in children and adolescents reporting both the limited amount of earlier research and current original research. References follow each chapter and there is an author index and subject index at the end.

The material gives insight into what conditions, how, and to whom disclosures are made by children and adolescents. The persons to whom disclosures may be made are peers, friends, nonfriends, siblings and parents. Some of the interesting findings include the fact that fourth and seventh grade children showed no differences in making personal disclosures to friends and nonfriends. Siblings showed greater personal disclosure to same sex siblings and when their families were more flexible in relationships. Disclosure to parents is affected by a number of variables, such as age and sex of the children and the interaction between them. Disclosure to parents serves different functions than does disclosure to peers. Fourth grade girls showed a greater willingness to disclose negative moral behavior to adults generally; this is understood as an indication of moral development of a conscience.

Often the initial disclosure of a sexual abuse allegation takes place in an interaction with a parent that is not documented in any way. A series of studies on the effectiveness of different types of parental strategies as a means of gaining information from children shows that coercive styles of attempting to gain information are the least successful in gaining information from children; negative and intrusive parental behaviors shut down children's attempts to give information. Surprisingly, parents who use avoidant techniques and defend against disclosures also shut children down. Different parental behaviors work differently for boys and girls. Information seeking and the absence of negative affect by the mother produced the best information from boys. Supportive behaviors were associated with girls' successful information giving.

Unfortunately, the chapter specifically dealing with disclosure of sexual abuse makes no effort to integrate these findings into the discussion. It simply repeats the unsupported dogmas from the sexual abuse literature about disclosure, such as Summit's child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. It does not cite the research work outside of the specific sexual abuse literature.

Nevertheless, this book has a wealth of good information about how the disclosure process may work and what may affect it. At this point it is the best single resource available for getting a grasp of the current data bearing on disclosure of children. It can be read and studied with profit by all professionals who need to understand how children and adults may interact so as to allow children to produce the best and most reliable information they can. Any adult who interviews children can gain much from this volume.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

Order this book: Hardcover

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