Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce and Custody Disputes
Hollida Wakefield, M.A. and
Ralph Underwager, Ph.D.*
Child sexual abuse allegations arising during
divorce and custody conflicts are complicated and difficult. Most
professionals believe that the highest percentage of false allegations
occurs in this circumstance, but there is disagreement over just how
many of these allegations are false. In evaluating cases of
suspected sexual abuse, the professional must remain open and objective,
carefully examine each case, and take an empirical stance.
Assessment and evaluation must be done with rigorous adherence to the
highest standards of the profession, and professionals must attend to
the characteristics of real versus false allegations. They must
not immediately dismiss an allegation as false because the parents are
in the midst of a divorce but must also guard against presuming guilt
and aligning themselves with the reporting parent's agenda.
Child sexual abuse allegations arising during a divorce
and custody dispute present unusual difficulties. Any professional
response to the accusations is complicated by the young age of the
children involved, possible motivations of adults, and the need to protect
the rights, interests, and welfare of the child and the accused
parent. Mantell (1988) observes that child sexual abuse allegations
tend to develop a life of their own that resist satisfactory
resolution. He suggests that the process of evaluating an accusation
may result in more damage to the interests of the child and to the child's
primary relationships than the original act in question. The
potential consequences to child, parents, family and society are massive,
long-lasting, and may be either beneficial or devastating. At all
stages of the process accurate and correct decisions are imperative.
Mental health professionals and attorneys report seeing
more accusations during marital conflict in the past few years although
the increase may be no greater than the dramatic increase in sexual
allegations in general over the past 10 to 15 years. Many
professionals believe that false accusations of sexual abuse are also
increasing. Although there is a disagreement as to the frequency and
nature of false claims, many believe that false accusations have become a
serious problem in vindictive, angry custody and visitation battles.
Consequently, false accusations in divorce have received extensive media
and professional attention (see for example, Ash, 1985; Benedek &
Schetky, 1985a, 1985b; Bishop & Johnson, 1987a, 1987b; Blush &
Ross, 1987 & 1990; Brant & Sink, 1984; Bresee, Stearns, Bess,
& Packer, 1986; Dwyer, 1986; Ekman, 1989; Everstine & Everstine,
1989; Ferguson, 1988; Gardner, unpublished, 1987a; Goldzband &
Renshaw, unpublished; Gordon, 1985; Green, 1986; Green, & Schetky,
1988; Guyer & Ash, 1986; Hindmarch,1990; Jones & Seig, 1988;
Levine, 1986; Levy, 1989; MacFarlane, 1986; Murphy, 1987; Ross &
Blush, 1990; Schaefer & Guyer, 1988; Schuman, 1986; Sheridan, 1990;
Sink, 1988b; Spiegel, 1986; Thoennes & Pearson, 1988a, 1988b; Thoennes
& Tjaden, 1990; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990; Wakefield &
Underwager, 1988, 1989, 1990; Yates & Musty, 1988).
There have been major changes in attitudes and laws
concerning divorce over the past several years. Along with media
attention, these changes have created an environment that makes sexual
abuse allegations more likely. Divorces have increased in all age
groups, including young adults with young children. As the divorce
rate has increased, much of the stigma associated with divorce has
disappeared. Many states enacted "no-fault" divorce
laws. These changes, however, have not reduced the anger and
frustrations of divorcing spouses. Geffner and Pagelow (1990) note
that with the trend toward no-fault divorce and community property laws,
many angry and hostile couples have nothing left to fight over except the
children. Therefore, although most couples who divorce do not become
involved in litigation, there has been an increase in the number of
disputes over custody.
In addition to no fault divorce laws, there have been
changes in custody laws. No longer is the mother always given the
presumption of custody; fathers are more likely to get custody if they
seek it, and there has been a strong movement toward establishing joint
custody (Ash & Guyer, 1986; Derdeyn, 1983; Ekman, 1989). Once
joint custody is agreed upon, it is extremely difficult to get it
changed. One of the few clear and immediate reasons for changing a
custody order is an accusation of sexual abuse by one parent.
It is difficult to determine just how often sexual
abuse accusations occur in custody and visitation disputes. Thoennes
and her colleagues (Thoennes & Pearson 1 988a, 1 988b; Thoennes &
Tjaden, 1990) attempted to determine the incidence and validity of sexual
abuse allegations through telephone interviews and mail surveys of 290
court administrators, judges, custody mediators, and child protection
workers throughout the United States. They then conducted 70
in-depth interviews at five sites, and then finally tracked cases of
sexual abuse allegations over a 6-month period from eleven court
systems. This latter procedure yielded a pool of 160 cases of sexual
Thoennes and her colleagues report the initial survey
and interviews at the five sites revealed a general consensus that sexual
abuse allegations in custody disputes occur in "a small but
growing" number of cases (Thoennes & Pearson, 1988a). They
estimate that accusations of sexual abuse are found in approximately 2% of
contested custody cases (the range across court sites was 1% to 8%).
They state that there are approximately one million divorces annually, and
of these, about 55% or 550,000 involve minor children. About 15% of
these (82,500) result in court involvement due to custody and/or
visitation disputes. Thus, their estimate of 2% translates into
1,650 cases of sexual abuse accusations annually within the context of a
The actual frequency may be higher than Thoennes and
Pearson's estimate. Guyer and Ash (1986) noted a marked increase in
the number of sexual abuse allegations in contested custody cases: 33% of
400 court-ordered evaluations in the preceding 5 years. Many
matrimonial attorneys report that they are now handling more custody cases
with sexual abuse allegations (Fisk, 1989; Kaser-Boyd, 1988). Ekman
(1989) reports that according to some judges, sexual abuse is alleged in
10% or more of all custody disputes reaching their courts. Raskin
reports that since 1974 he has conducted polygraph examinations on persons
accused of sexual abuse of children. Test outcomes consistent with truthful
denial of sexual abuse have increased from 50% in the 1974-82 period to
79% truthful in 1983-87. A large proportion of those allegations
arose in domestic relations disputes (Raskin & Yuille, 1989).
There is disagreement over how many of these accusation
are false, although most estimates range between 20% and 80%.
Thoennes and her colleagues report that in 33% of the cases in their
survey no abuse was believed to have occurred. Abuse was believed
likely in 50%, and in 17% no determination could be reached (Thoennes
& Pearson 1 988a, 1 988b; Thoennes & Tjaden, 1990). However,
the criterion for determination was the opinion of custody evaluators and
child protection workers rather than the decision of the justice system.
In over 500 cases of sexual abuse allegations where we
have provided expert consultation over the past 6 years, 40% have been in
divorce and custody disputes. Of the divorce and custody cases that
have been adjudicated, in three-fourths there was no legal finding of
abuse. That is, charges were dropped, never filed, the person was
acquitted in criminal court, or there was a finding of no abuse in family
or juvenile court.
Dwyer (1986) reports similar statistics, concluding
that 77% of the divorce4inked allegations of sex abuse cases coming to the
Human Sexuality Program at the University of
Minnesota have turned out to be "hoax" cases. This
conclusion was based on the opinion of the staff that the allegations were
not accurate. Although other estimates are lower, most professionals
agree that the proportion of false allegations is likely to be highest
when the allegation surfaces in a conflict over custody and visitation.
Others, however, caution professionals not to conclude
immediately that an allegation is false simply because it arises in a
divorce and custody dispute. Proponents of this view believe that,
although there may be a disproportionate number of false accusations in
divorce and custody disputes, most accusations of sexual abuse in this
context are true. Faller (1 990b) gives three possible reasons why a
truthful allegation might surface initially during a divorce: (1) the
nonoffending parent finds out about the sexual abuse and decides to
divorce the offending parent; (2) there is long-standing sexual abuse that
is revealed only in the context of divorce; or (3) sexual abuse is
precipitated by the marital dissolution.
Several authors (Berliner 1988; Corwin, Berliner,
Goodman, Goodwin, & White, 1987; Faller, 1990b; MacFarlane, 1986;
Sink, 1988b) suggest other reasons why valid allegations of sexual abuse
may not surface until the time of a divorce. A child who is being
abused may be afraid to disclose the abuse while the family is still
together. Similarly, a child who has been threatened with the
dissolution of the family may be able to tell once these consequences are
happening anyway. It is more difficult for the abusing parent to
enforce secrecy once he or she is not living with the child. Also, a
child may become genuinely terrified at the prospect of spending time
alone with the abuser and therefore finally disclose the abuse in order to
avoid a visit.
A few writers claim some parents are more likely to
begin sexually abusing their children after the divorce, either to
retaliate against the divorcing spouse or because the stress of the
divorce results in more impulsive behavior. MacFarlane (1986)
believes that a parent who is feeling rejected may be vulnerable to the
acceptance and affection of a very young child and use the child to
fulfill emotional needs. A man who has a history of only
heterosexual behavior may reach out to his child sexually under the stress
and loneliness of the divorce. Corwin et al. (1987) assert that the
various stresses in a divorce are more likely to lead to actual abuse than
to false allegations. They suggest the losses, stresses, and overall
negative impact of separation and divorce may lead to regressive acting
out by parents, including sexual abuse. At least one article
suggests that women may sexually abuse children when there has been a
significant experience of loss which could be a marriage dissolution
(Wakefield, Rogers, & Underwager, 1990).
Faller (1990a) reports on her clinical experience with
196 stepfathers, biological fathers, and noncustodial fathers. The
noncustodial fathers are said to begin abusing their children after the
separation, during visitation. Faller believes an angry, bewildered,
and/or emotionally devastated father may seek affection and comfort from
his child that this interaction may become sexualized. The father
may regress under the stress of the divorce and may therefore feel more
comfortable with an immature sex object. In addition, an angry
father may retaliate against his wife by sexually abusing the child.
Faller's study illustrates a major difficulty in the
research in this area the criteria for real versus false
allegations. Although half of the biological fathers and stepfathers
admitted to the abuse, only 20% of the noncustodial fathers did.
Since these cases were all "validated," Faller assumed that the
abuse was real and that those who did not admit were denying.
However, there is no discussion of what is meant by
"validated." Is it substantiation by a social worker, a
statement by a child, suspicions of a caretaker or custodial parents, a
finding by the justice system, Faller's opinion, etc.? When the
criterion for the reality of the alleged abuse is simply an opinion by a
mental health or law enforcement professional, there is little or no
scientific evidence to support the validity and reliability of that
opinion (Levine & Battistoni, 1991). Therefore, it is likely
that an indeterminate number of false allegations are included among these
subjects. Any study using this low and doubtful validity criterion must be
regarded cautiously (Meehl, 1989).
Disagreement over the proportion of false allegations in divorce and
custody disputes is partially due to differing definitions of a false
allegation. The terms substantiated and unsubstantiated
create confusion. Corwin et al. (1987), Paradise, Rostain, and
Nathanson, 1988, and Quinn (1988) observe that unsubstantiated is not
the same as false. It can always be argued that a different
approach or more information would have allowed the allegation to be
substantiated. At the same time, however, substantiated does
not necessarily mean the allegation is true.
Also, the definition of terms such as substantiated, founded,
and indicated varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For
example, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services calls a report indicated
if there is substantial evidence that the alleged abuse actually occurred; the
report is founded if there is a courtroom adjudication that the child was
abused (Paradise et al., 1988). However, in the literature these
terms are not always defined and sometimes used interchangeably.
What is mean by false allegation also differs. The
category of false allegations sometimes includes all cases which cannot be
substantiated. At other times this category is limited to cases in which
the accuser is purposefully deceiving. It is more appropriate to
differentiate between false and fabricated (or fictitious)
allegations of sexual abuse. A false allegation refers to all
situations in which abuse is judged not to occur. A fabricated
allegation is a purposeful and deliberately false allegation. When an
accusation of sexual abuse is false, this does not mean that it was deliberately
fabricated. Most false allegations in divorce and custody disputes are not the
result of deliberate fabrications (Guyer & Ash, 1988; Wakefield &
If the definition of false allegation excludes cases that are
unsubstantiated but not deliberately fabricated, there will be a much smaller
proportion of such cases. This was done by Jones and McGraw (1987) who
reported that only 8% of all sexual abuse allegations (not just those in the
divorce and custody context) were false. Examination of their data
indicates that only 53% of the allegations were founded, even including cases
where the allegation of abuse was later recanted. Of the rest, there was
insufficient information to make a determination in 24%; 17% were
unsubstantiated; and 6% were deliberately fictitious. The 8% figure comes
from dropping out the cases with insufficient information and recalculating the
percentages. This procedure also inflates the percentage defined as
founded, with the result that Jones and McGraw state that 70% of the reports are
If actual abuse is defined in terms of substantiated cases,
and false allegations are limited to deliberate fabrications, there will be only
a small number of false allegations. There will be a greater number if a
false allegation is defined as any case that is not substantiated. There
will be a still larger number if the criterion is the justice system's finding
of abuse, since not all allegations substantiated by social services result in a
finding of abuse by the court.
It must also be kept in mind that the use of these concepts
obfuscates the basic question of whether the abuse actually happened.
These concepts are not dealing with whether or not the alleged abuse occurred
but with the opinions of people involved and the determination of the justice
FACTORS BEHIND FALSE ALLEGATIONS
A false accusation is seldom a deliberate fabrication made
for the purpose of obtaining custody. Instead, media coverage of sexual
abuse, widespread publication of so-called "behavioral indicators,"
and proliferation of child sexual abuse prevention programs may result in a
parent becoming hypersensitive to the possibility of abuse. In an
acrimonious custody conflict, a parent may be ready to jump to premature
conclusions when presented with minimal data. Any suspicious circumstances
may lead to suggestive questioning and inadvertent reinforcement of a young
child. Statements about abuse may be unknowingly shaped and
developed. Also, mandatory child abuse reporting laws mean that if a
parent mentions suspicions to a health professional, the suspected abuse will
have to be reported to the police and/or child protection services.
In a bitter divorce, not only is the child likely to undergo
significant stress, but the parents are likely to blame the child's anxiety and
distress on the other parent (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1975, 1980).
Individuals going through a divorce often feel victimized and wronged, and their
hostility, distrust, and anger may predispose them to believe the worst about
their former spouses. They therefore may react to an ambiguous situation,
such as masturbation, regressive or anxious behavior following a visit, or
redness in the genitals, by immediately concluding that the other parent has
sexually abused the child (Schaefer & Buyer, 1988; Wakefield &
Underwager, 1988, 1990).
Still, in some cases a parent may deliberately foster a false
accusation as a way to get custody (Wakefield & Underwager, 1989).
Thoennes and Pearson (1988b) report that in 15% of the cases they studied, the
case worker expressed doubt that the report was offered in good faith.
The system that responds to sexual abuse accusations rewards
making such accusations. The hated former spouse is punished. There
is social approval for making the accusation. Custody of children is
immediately given to the accusing parent, and the other parent is prevented from
any contact with the child. There may be free legal counsel along with
support and encouragement from social workers, therapists, friends, family, and
neighbors. There is no response cost for making an accusation. As
Green and Schetky (1988) observe:
A small number of parents caught up in custody battles or
visitation disputes have exploited the epidemic of sexual abuse by using such
allegations to promote their own interests at the expense of their child and
their former spouse. Allegations have become a surefire way of getting a
judge's attention of cutting off visitations. They have the same
emotional impact that issues of adultery once had in custody battles a decade
or more ago (p. 104).
Gardner (unpublished) notes that an accusation of sexual
abuse is a powerful weapon in a divorce and custody dispute. The vengeful
parent may exaggerate a nonexistent or inconsequential sexual contact and build
up a case for sexual abuse. The child, in order to ingratiate himself or
herself with the accusing parent, may cooperate. On this basis of such
observations, Gardner describes a "parental alienation syndrome" in
which the child identifies with the vilifying parent and communicates absolute
hatred toward the other parent. A false accusation of sexual abuse may
develop in this situation (Gardner, 1987a).
Gardner (unpublished) also observes that in some cases a
mother obsessed with hatred toward the father may bring the child to the point
of having paranoid delusions about the father. A "folie â deux"
relationship may evolve in which the child acquires the mother's paranoid
delusions (Ferguson, 1988; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1981; Rand, 1989, 1990).
Green (1986) reports that such women are usually diagnosed as histrionic or
paranoid personality disorders, or paranoid schizophrenics.
Blush and Ross (1987) and Ross and Blush (1990) gathered
social, psychological, and legal data related to child sexual abuse allegations
arising in a court clinic setting in Michigan. These data suggested
patterns characterizing accusations that are more likely to be false.
Important variables were the escalation and timing of the cases, the personality
characteristics of the adults involved, and the behavior of the children. Blush
and Ross (1987) termed the typical pattern of false allegations the SAID (Sexual
Allegations in Divorce) Syndrome characteristics of which include:
||The accusations surface after separation and legal action begins.
||There is a history of family dysfunction with unresolved divorce
conflict and hidden underlying issues.
||The female (accusing) parent often is a hysterical or borderline
personality or is angry, defensive and justifying.
||The male (the accused) parent is generally passive, nurturing, and lacks
|| The child is typically a female under age eight.
||The allegations surfaces via the custodial parent.
||The mother takes the child to an "expert" who confirms the
abuse and identifies the father as the perpetrator.
||The court reacts to the expert's information by terminating or limiting
Wakefield and Underwager (1990) reviewed their files from
contested divorce and custody cases including false allegations of sexual
abuse. In many of the files, there were mental health diagnostic opinions
about the individual's personality characteristics. The personalities of
72 falsely accusing parents and 103 falsely accused parents were compared to
each other and to a control group of 67 parents who were involved in equally
bitter custody disputes but without allegations of sexual abuse. Although
most of the falsely accusing parents were women and the falsely accused parents
men, there were four falsely accusing men and four falsely accused women.
The falsely accusing parents were much more likely than the
other two groups to have a diagnosis of personality disorder such as histrionic,
borderline, passive-aggressive, or paranoid 74% had personality disorder
diagnoses and 3% other diagnoses while 24% were judged to have no
psychopathology. In comparison, 66% in the custody control group and 70%
in the falsely accused group were assessed as normal.
Wakefield and Underwager (1990) suggested a typology of
parents who make or encourage false accusations of sexual abuse in divorce and
||The highly disturbed individual whose personality disorder interferes
with functioning, judgment, and sometimes the ability to differentiate
between fact and fantasy. Such individuals often have a history of
psychiatric involvement and unstable relationships. They are seen as
unstable, moody, impulsive, and over-reactive. Under the stress of
the divorce, they are apt to over-react and misinterpret events and jump
to premature conclusions about abuse.
||The individual (who may or may not have a personality disorder) who is
obsessed with hatred and hostility toward an estranged or former
spouse. This person does whatever he or she can to hurt the spouse,
and their child becomes a pawn in the ongoing battle. Gardner's
(1987a) concept of a "parental alienation syndrome" is often
||The individual who is obsessed with the possibility that the child has
been or may be sexually abused. This person may have been sexually
abused or raped or may have simply overreacted to the media attention to
abuse, becoming hypervigilant about the possibility of this happening to
the child. Such a parent may question the child repeatedly, examine
genitals following visits with the other parent, and repeatedly take the
child to doctors until some professional affirms the suspicion.
There may be one or more unsubstantiated reports of abuse in the records
of the child protection system.
||The individual who reacts fairly appropriately to an ambiguous situation
by seeking guidance from a therapist or physician, who prematurely and
immediately tells the parent that the child has been sexually
abused. When a high status professional says authoritatively that
the child has been sexually molested, a normal, loving parent may be
intimidated or coerced into believing it. In this fourth type, the
parent may be a victim of the system along with the accused and the child.
Bresee et al. (1986) assert that an allegation of
child abuse is clear evidence that the child is at risk, whether or not the
allegation can be proved. If the parent is over reacting or fabricating an
allegation, the child's emotional health is also threatened. Wakefield
& Underwager (1988) believe that a parent involved in developing a false
allegation may not be qualified to be a custodial parent.
LEADING AND SUGGESTIVE INTERVIEWS
Although repeated and/or suggestive interviews and flawed
investigations do not mean that a child has not been abused, they make it very
difficult to sort out what, if anything, may have happened. Suggestive
interviews, especially if repeated, result in mistakes on both sides.
Children who have not been abused are treated as though they were and innocent
parents are prevented from having contact with their children. At the same
time, a coercive interview can be used by the defense as support for the lack of
credibility of the child, and an actual abuser may go unpunished. It is
therefore extremely important that professionals conduct careful and thorough
evaluations and proper interviews.
The goal of investigatory evaluation in cases of suspected
child sexual abuse is to gather uncontaminated data. Contamination occurs
when the child's recollections become altered through poor interview techniques,
an adverse interview environment, the interviewer's inappropriate behaviors, or
influences outside the interviewer's control (Quinn, White, & Santilli,
1989; White, 1990). The child's memory of any actual experience may be
significantly altered by the questioning about the incident (White, 1990;
Clarke-Stewart, Thompson, & Lepore, 1989) and the child may even develop a
memory for events that never happened (Loftus & Ketcham, 1991; Underwager
& Wakefield, 1990).
Hall (1989) observes that there are few formal guidelines for
the psychological assessment of child abuse by professional psychologists.
However, psychologists should follow the ethical guidelines concerning custody
evaluations and these evaluations should be very carefully conducted.
Techniques such as the penile plethysmograph are questionable from the
perspective of determining whether abuse occurred. The use of other
procedures with doubtful or nonexistent reliability and validity will increase
the chance of an erroneous decision. These unsupported procedures include
drawings, projective tests, play therapy, and anatomically detailed dolls
(Dawes, 1988; Levy, 1989; Mantel, 1988; Terr, 1988; Underwager & Wakefield,
1990; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988). Weiner (1989) says flatly that if
psychologists use procedures not supported by empirical evidence in assessing
alleged sexual abuse they are behaving unethically by being incompetent.
Several professionals have suggested how to conduct an
unbiased evaluation and noncontaminating interviews (e.g., see Daly, 1991; Quinn
et al., 1989; Raskin & Yuille, 1989; Slicner & Hanson, 1989;
Wakefield & Underwager, 1988). Recently, information and initial
American research on Criterion Based Content Analysis / Statement Validity
Analysis has become available. This is a European procedure for
interviewing children suspected of being abused and for analyzing the resulting
interview. This technique assumes that an account based on a real memory
of an actual event will differ in content and quality from accounts based on
fabricated, learned, or suggested memory. The procedure requires a
relatively complete statement obtained as soon as possible after the child has
disclosed an incident. It is not intended for eliciting the initial report
in cases where abuse has only been suspected because of clinical or behavioral
indices. The interview must be designed to obtain as much free narrative
as possible, and leading questions and suggestions must be avoided, except at
the end when deliberately used to assess the child's susceptibility to
suggestion. The entire interview is tape-recorded and transcribed for
later analysis (K6hnken & Steller, 1988; Raskin & Esplin, 1991; Rogers,
1990; Undeutsch, 1988).
A professional is often asked to assess a case after others
have interviewed the child. If the initial evaluation and interviews have
been conducted by someone else, careful examination of the procedures is
necessary in order to assess possible contamination (Wakefield & Underwager,
1988; White & Quinn, 1988). When children have been subjected to
leading and coercive interviews, the contamination is likely to have altered
their recollections so that it becomes extremely difficult to sort out the
A frequent trigger for suspicion of possible sexual abuse is
one of the so-called behavioral indicators. Lists of behaviors believed to
be caused by sexual abuse have been widely publicized with the result that
suspicious behavior following visitation may lead a parent to question a child
in a way that inadvertently elicits statements suggesting abuse.
Television programs, workshops, newspapers, pamphlets, and magazines encourage
parents, relatives, teachers, physicians, clergy, day-care workers, and
neighbors to be alert to the physical and behavioral signs of sexual abuse in
children and to report their suspicions to medical or legal authorities.
Lists by various experts (e.g., Council on Scientific
Affairs, 1985; Cohen, 1985; Sgroi, 1982) have included a large number of behavioral
signs said to indicate possible sexual abuse. Nearly every problem
behavior ever detected in children has been offered by someone as a sign of
possible child sexual abuse. The difficulty is that such behaviors are
known stress responses. There is a high probability that any normal child
might at some point in childhood exhibit one or more of these behaviors.
In addition, not all sexually abused children are symptomatic following sexual
abuse (Gomes-Schwartz, Horowitz, & Cardarelli, 1990). Thus, the
absence of behavioral symptoms cannot be used to rule out sexual abuse.
Reliance upon behavioral indicators in assessing possible
sexual abuse is likely to result in mistaken decisions. Levine and
Battistoni (1991) point out that it is not established that any of these
indicators, in any combination, are valid without a direct statement by the
child about sexual involvement or sexual knowledge. Besharov (1990)
observes, "Behavioral indicators, by themselves, are not a sufficient basis
for a report" (p. 39).
It is of interest that in the 1890s John Kellogg, M.D.,
originator of corn flakes, published manuals for parents instructing them on how
to deal with masturbation by children. Among the behavioral indicators of
masturbation listed by Kellogg are many of the same behaviors listed today as
indicators of sexual abuse (Legrand, Wakefield, & Underwager, 1989).
This leads Money (1985) to remark that:
Kellogg's listing of suspicious signs has been given a new
lease on life currently by the professional detectives of sexual
child-abuse. Here is an example of those who have not learned from
history being condemned to repeat it, replete with all its dreadful
consequences (p. 97).
The symptoms of children whose parents are divorcing are
similar to the alleged behavioral indicators of child sexual abuse. This
is not surprising since such behavior symptoms are found in many different
situations, including conflict between parents, divorce, economic stress,
wartime separations, father absence, natural disaster, and almost any stressful
situation children may experience (Emery, 1982; Hughes & Barad, 1983; Jaffe,
Wolfe, Wilson, & Zak, 1986; Porter & O'Leary, 1980; Wallerstein &
Kelly, 1980; Wolman, 1983).
Children who are distressed, whether by bitter conflict
between parents, by physical or emotional but nonsexual abuse, or by any number
of troubling events, may reflect their distress in many different ways.
Which behaviors develop in a particular child will be an interaction of the
predispositions and the learning environment of that child. There is no
behavior or set of behaviors that occur only in victims of child sexual abuse.
Age-inappropriate sexual play or knowledge appears to be a
more reliable sign than other behavioral indicators. However, there is
evidence that what children normally do sexually is more frequent and involved
than most people assume (Best, 1983; Gundersen, Melas & Skar, 1981;
Martinson, 1981). When interpreting observed sexual behavior by a child,
the antecedent probability of the behavior must be considered. Friedrich,
Grambsch, Broughton, Kuiper, & Beilke (unpublished) asked mothers of 880
nonabused 2- to 12-year-old children to complete questionnaires concerning
sexual behavior. Although behaviors imitative of adult sexual behaviors
were relatively rare, the children exhibited a wide variety of sexual behaviors
at relatively high frequencies. Thus, while precocious sexual activities
of young children may be more indicative of sexual abuse than are other
behavioral signs, such activities should still be interpreted cautiously.
Base rates for the presence of problem behaviors in normal
children, in troubled children, in nonabused children, in children whose parents
are divorcing, and as part of the developmental process for all children, are so
high that any attempt to use these behaviors as signs indicating abuse will
result in a high rate of error. This does not mean that adults should not
try to identify and aid children who show signs of distress. But the
professional must not immediately conclude that sexual abuse is the cause of the
DIFFERENTIATING BETWEEN REAL AND FALSE ALLEGATIONS
The justice system makes the ultimate determination about
whether or not abuse occurred, but the response of the professional early
in the case can affect the outcome. Also, when there is a sexual abuse
allegation in a custody dispute, the findings of fact about the abuse itself
must be made separately from and prior to the court's consideration of custody
and visitation; the judge cannot make a decision concerning custody until there
is a finding about the alleged abuse (Brooks & Milchman, 1991). Few family
court judges, however, are prepared to address allegations of sexual abuse.
Thus, when there is an accusation, the justice system solicits opinions and
information from mental health and medical professionals to help it make a
determination of fact. Professionals therefore should learn possible indicators
of a false accusation of child sexual abuse.
Although there is no checklist or test, there is a growing
body of literature on the criteria for assessing the validity of an allegation of
sexual abuse (see e.g., Benedek & Schetky, 1985a; Berliner, 1988; Blush & Ross,
1990; Bresee et al., 1986; Brooks & Milchman, 1991; de Young, 1986; Faller, 1988; Gardner,
1987a, 1987b; Green & Schetky, 1988; Jones & McGraw, 1987;
Klajner-Diamond, Wehrspann, & Steinhauer, 1987; Köhnken & Steller,
1988; Mantell, 1988; Paradise et al., 1988; Quinn, 1988; Raskin & Esplin, 1991; Raskin & Yuille, 1989;
Rogers, 1990; Ross & Blush, 1990; Sink, 1988a, 1988b; Steller, Raskin, & Yuille
unpublished; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988; Wehrspann, Steinhauer, &
Klajner-Diamond, 1987; Yates, 1988).
The Origin of the Original Disclosure
Allegations of child sexual abuse are less likely to be
correct when the parent, rather than the child, initiates the disclosure (Yates
& Musty, 1988, Yates, 1988). Young children almost never initiate false
allegations without influence from an adult. The child is influenced by an adult
who already believes the suspected abuse is true. The child is unable to concoct
elaborate lies but is suggestible to suggestions and influence of the adult.
False allegations are most likely the result of adult indoctrination rather than
childhood fantasy (Klajner-Diamond et al., 1987). A spontaneous disclosure made
by a young child without evident adult influence is more likely to be true.
The Timing of the Allegations
Although false accusations of sexual abuse may occur at any
stage in a bitter and acrimonious divorce (Underwager & Wakefield, 1988;
Blush & Ross, 1987), Benedek and Schetky (1985a) report that they are
especially common in disputes about child custody arising after a divorce has
been granted and centering around issues of visitation. There is a difference
between an accusation that appears in a marriage that may be troubled but is
continuing and an accusation that first appears in the midst of an acrimonious
custody battle. It is therefore necessary to examine carefully the chronology
of the development of an accusation and attend to other events such as legal
maneuverings, new relationships, and therapeutic contacts.
If it can be determined that the divorce occurs as a result
of the abuse disclosures, the alleged abuse is more likely to be true. Sirles
and Lofberg (1990) studied 128 families in which sexual abuse occurred and
approximately half of these families ended in separation and/or divorce.
The Age of the Child
Some writers believe allegations that turn out to be false
involve very young children. Schaefer and Guyer (1988) report that the children
in their false cases were most often under 5 years old. Everstine and Everstine
(1989) note that in a divorce case, the younger a child is, the more emotionally
dependent he or she is on a parent. The very young child therefore may be more
vulnerable to the manipulations of an angry and vengeful parent.
Behavior of the Accusing Parent
Does the parent making the accusation initially report not
believing the abuse, or thinking that the child was mistaken? Or is the initial
reaction one of "I knew it all along" (Faller, 1 990b). Gardner (1987a) notes that in real abuse, the accusing parent is
upset, secretive and
embarrassed, whereas in false cases, he or she has the need to tell everyone and
expresses no shame. Jones and Seig (1988) observe that in a false allegation
there is apt to be an accusing parent who is prematurely convinced and unwilling
to "hear" any other possibilities.
Bresee et al. (1986) note that in cases of actual abuse, the
accusing parent is willing to consider other possible explanations for the
behavior or statements that aroused his or her suspicions. In false allegations,
the accusing parent is more likely to be unwilling to consider any other
explanations for the child's behavior or statements. In real cases, the parent
is willing to have the child interviewed alone, but when the accuser is
primarily interested in attacking the accused, he or she is more apt to insist
on being present when the child is interviewed.
In false cases, when the original professional says that
abuse is unlikely, the falsely accusing parent may shop for other professionals
who will verify his or her suspicions. Such parents may involve the child in
multiple examinations, and demand that the investigation continue, regardless of
the impact on the child (Bresee et al., 1986; Rand, 1989, 1990; Schaefer&Guyer, 1988).
Some parents continue believing their child was abused even
after the court makes a determination of no abuse and orders that contact with
the accused parent be restored. Sometimes such parents take their children and
disappear with the help of a supportive network of persons who maintain that
most allegations in custody disputes are true. This "underground
railroad" asserts that the mother of an abused child is victimized by a
disbelieving court system supported by mental health professionals who agree the
allegation is false. Therefore, the only thing a mother can do to protect her
child is to disappear (Faller, 1990b; Fisher, 1990; Gest & Galtney 1988;
Podesta & Van Biema, 1989). Obviously, everyone, most of all the child,
loses when this happens (Lloyd, 1990).
Nature of the Allegations
Schaefer and Guyer (1988) note that in cases involving false
allegations of sexual abuse, the allegations are usually vague and not easily
amenable to being verified or refuted. In one-third of the families in their
sample, the allegation involved no concrete or specified parental behavior.
Rather, there was a vague assertion that "something is happening," or
"something is just not right, I know it." However, this had little
effect on the level of subjective certainty. Often there was a pairing of an
adamant and sure assertion with a description of a vague and ill-defined
behavior. Frequently, it was a parent's perception of a child's behavior that
provoked the suspicions.
Another consideration is the nature of the behaviors alleged. Are the behaviors alleged consistent with what is known about the behavior of
actual sexual abusers and incest perpetrators? (Wakefield & Underwager,
1988). Or are the behaviors simply not probable? It is important to look at what
is known about what actual sexual abusers do. Bizarre allegations including
multiple adults, sadism with feces and urine, and satanic rituals are likely to
Characteristics of the Child's Statement
Does the child's statement have the characteristics of true
accounts of abuse? Jones and Seig (1988) point out that in a false allegation
there is apt to be an inconsistent, sparse, or unrealistic account from the
child. De Young (1986) suggests looking for specific action as well as details,
especially affective and contextual details. In a false allegation, the child is
unlikely to give elaborated details. Sink (1988a) notes that real accounts
contain contextually descriptive information, given spontaneously. Jones and
McGraw (1987) report that valid accounts include an appropriate level of detail
given the child's age, unique or idiosyncratic details, emotion congruent with
the topic discussed, and reports of secrecy, coercion, or threats.
Strong hatred expressed toward the accused, based upon
trivial and vague reasons, may be the result of learning from the accusing
parent rather than from actual abuse (Gardner, 1987a). Also, a child who is
very eager to talk about the abuse may have learned that adults reward such talk
(Wakefield & Underwager, 1988).
Faller (1988) examined three characteristics said to be
associated with true allegations: (1) information about the context of the
sexual abuse; (2) description or demonstration of the sexual victimization; and
(3) the victim's emotional state. She reviewed 103 cases in which the
perpetrator had confessed to some level of abuse. A description of the sexual
behavior and an emotional reaction to the abuse was found in over four-fifths of
the statements. Contextual details were found in over three-fourths.
two-third of the allegations contained all of these characteristics. Faller
concludes that these data support the clinical assumptions concerning these
These characteristics of a statement based on an actual event
are similar to those looked for in the Criterion Based Content Analysis /
Statement Validity Analysis procedure described earlier (Köhnken &
Steller, 1988; Raskin & Esplin, 1991; Rogers, 1990; Undeutsch, 1988). The
agreement among professionals concerning the nature of the child's statement
suggests these criteria are useful. However, the statement must be obtained as
soon as possible from a child who has made a spontaneous disclosure and must be based upon the child's narrative
account and not on responses to leading questions.
Personality Characteristics of the Parties Involved
When accusations of sexual abuse surface in a bitter divorce
and custody dispute, the personality characteristics of the parties involved
should be considered in evaluating the allegations. Parents making false
allegations are likely to have personality disorders and/or other psychiatric
problems (Ross & Blush, 1990; Green & Schetky, 1988; Jones & McGraw,
1987; Rogers, 1990; Klajner-Diamond et al., 1987; Wakefield, & Underwager,
1990). Faller (1990b) notes that a childhood history of abuse in the mother may
result in distortions of events or hypervigilance.
Therefore, in the absence of corroborating evidence, when the
parent making the accusation is disturbed and the accused is psychologically
normal, a false accusation should be considered. However, as Bresee et al.
(1986) point out, even histrionic or combative women who make allegations with
vengeful motives may have discovered genuine evidence of sexual abuse.
Behavior of the Professionals Involved
In evaluating cases of suspected sexual abuse, it is
necessary to remain open and objective and guard against either a presumption of
guilt or of innocence. Klajner-Diamond et al. (1987) say one factor suggesting a
false accusation is a professional committed prematurely to the truth of the
allegation. Blush and Ross (1990) observe that false cases are characterized by
a loss of control early on when professionals decide that abuse is real before
doing a careful investigation. Unfortunately, there are a few professionals who
may be willing to collude with parents to develop false accusations (Wakefield
& Underwager, 1989).
In cases that turn out to be false, a professional often very
quickly reaches a decision that abuse has occurred, the decision is made on the
basis of limited data, disconfirming data are ignored, and no alternative
options are examined. Often, the conclusion is reached without talking to the
person accused, even if that person wants to be interviewed.
Mistakes on either side regarding allegations of child sexual
abuse have significant and long-lasting ramifications for all parties involved.
Much attention in the professional and popular literature has been given to the
plight of the abused child who is not believed, may be pressured to retract, and
may not be protected from an abusing parent. Therefore, some professionals
assert that they choose to "err on the side of the child" by not
taking any chances when abuse is alleged. However, when a false accusation is
judged to be true, the child is also hurt. The nonabused child has been
subjected to a process of interrogation and often to sexual abuse therapy that
is confusing and potentially iatrogenic. The relationship with a formerly
loved parent may be irretrievably damaged. If the adults make
a mistake and treat a nonabused child as if the child has been abused, the
consequences can be long-term and disastrous. The need to improve the accuracy
of adult decision-making in this area cannot be ignored.
There are no easy answers. These cases are extremely
difficult for everyone. Professionals must remain open and objective and attend
to what is known. They must carefully examine each case and not immediately
dismiss an allegation as false because the parents are in the midst of a
divorce. But they must also guard against a presumption of guilt, and resist
aligning themselves with the reporting parent's agenda.
Ash, P. (1985, April). Sexual abuse allegations in the
context of divorce. Paper presented at the 63rd Annual Conference of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, Chicago, IL.
Ash, P., & Guyer, M. (1986). Child psychiatry and the
law: The functions of psychiatric evaluation in contested child custody and
visitation cases. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry,
Benedek, E. P., & Schetky, D. H. (1985a). Allegations of
sexual abuse in child custody and visitation disputes. In E. Benedek & D.
Schetky (Eds.), Emerging Issues in Child Psychiatry and the Law ()
(pp. 145-156). New
Benedek, E. P. & Schetky, D. H. (1985b). Custody and
visitation: Problems and perspectives.
Psychiatric Clinics of North America,
Berliner, L. (1988). Deciding whether a child has been
sexually abused. In E. B. Nicholson Ed.), Sexual Abuse Allegations in
and Visitation Cases ()
(pp. 48-69). Washington, DC: American Bar Association.
Besharov, D. (1990, Spring). Gaming control over child abuse
reports. Public Welfare, p. 34-41.
Best, R. (1983). Fun and games in the primary grades. In We've All Got
Scars: What Boys and Girls Learn in Elementary School ()()
Bloomington, IN: Indiana
Bishop, S. J., & Johnson, C. E. K. (1987a). Dealing with
sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation disputes Part I. Colorado Lawyer,
Bishop, S. J., & Johnson, C. E. K. (1987b). Dealing with
sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation disputes Part II. Colorado Lawyer,
Blush, G. L., & Ross, K. L. (1987). Sexual allegations in
divorce: The SAID syndrome. Conciliation Courts
Blush, G. L., & Ross, K. L. (1990). Investigation and Case Management
Issues and Strategies. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 2(3),
Brant, S. T., & Sink, F. (1984, October 12). Dilemmas in
court-ordered evaluation of sexual abuse charges during custody and visitation
proceedings. Paper presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, Toronto, Canada.
Bresee, P., Stearns, G. B., Bess, B. H., & Packer, L. S.
(1986). Allegations of child sexual abuse in child custody disputes: A
therapeutic assessment model. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
56, 560- 569.
Brooks, C. M., & Milchman, M. S. (1991). Child sexual
abuse allegations during custody litigation: Conflicts between mental health expert witnesses and the
law. Behavioral Sciences &
the Law, 9, 21-32.
Clarke-Stewart, A., Thompson, W., & Lepore, S. (1989,
April). Manipulating children's interpretations through interrogation. Paper
presented at SRCD, Kansas City, MO.
Cohen, A. (1985). The unreliability of expert testimony on
the typical characteristics of sexual abuse victims. Georgetown Law Journal,
Corwin, D., Berliner, L., Goodman, G. S., Goodwin, J., &
White, S. (1987). Child sexual abuse and custody disputes: No easy answers.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 91-105.
Council on Scientific Affairs (1985). AMA diagnostic and
treatment guidelines concerning child abuse and neglect. Journal of the American Medical Association, 254, 796-800.
Daly, L. W. (1991). The Essentials of Child Abuse Investigation and Child
Interviews. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 3(2),
Dawes, R. M. (1988). Rational Choice in an Uncertain World ().
New York: Harcourt Brace
de Young, M. (1986). A conceptual model for judging the truthfulness of a young child's allegation of sexual abuse.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Derdeyn, A. P. (1983). Child psychiatry and law: The family
in divorce: Issues of parental anger. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry,
Dwyer, M. (1986). Guilty as charged: Or are they? Unpublished
paper, University of Minnesota.
Ekman, M. (1989). Kid's testimony in court: The sexual abuse
crisis. In P. Ekman, Why Kids Lie ()
(pp. 152-180). New York: Charles Scribner's
Emery, R. E. (1982). Interparental conflict and the children
of discord and divorce. Psychological Bulletin,
Everstine, D. S., & Everstine, L. (1989). Sexual Trauma
in Children and Adolescents: Dynamics and Treatment (). New York,
Faller, K. C. (1988). Criteria for judging credibility of children's statements about their sexual abuse.
Child Welfare, 67(5),
Faller, K. C. (1990a). Sexual abuse by paternal caretakers: A
comparison of abusers who are biological fathers in intact families,
stepfathers, and noncustodial fathers. In A. L. Horton, B. L. Johnson, L. M. Roundy, & D. Williams
(Eds.), The Incest Perpetrator:
A Family Member No One Wants to Treat ()
(pp. 65-73), Newbury Park, CA: Sage
Faller, K. C. (1990b). Understanding Child Sexual Maltreatment (). Newbury Park, CA:
Ferguson, D. (1988). Bad Moon Rising: A True Story ().
Nashville, TN: Winston-Derek, Inc.
Fisher, D. (1990). Why parents run.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 123-127.
Fisk, M. C. (1989, July 17). Abuse: The new weapon. The National Law Journal, pp.1, 20-25.
Gardner, R. A. (1987a). The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation
Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sexual Abuse (). Cresskill,
NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
Gardner, R. A. (1987b). Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale.
Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
Geffner, R., & Pagelow, M. D. (1990). Mediation and child
custody issues in abusive relationships. Behavioral Sciences
and the Law, 8,
Gest, T., & Galtney, L. (1988, June 13). Mothers on the
run. U.S. News and World Report, pp. 22-33.
Gomes-Schwartz, B., Horowitz, J. M., & Cardarelli, A. P.
(1990). Child Sexual Abuse: The Initial Effects ()().
Newbury Park, CA: Sage
Goodwin, J. M., Sahd, D., & Rada, R. T. (1989). In J. M.
Goodwin, Sexual Abuse: Incest Victims and Their Families ()()
(pp. 19-36). Chicago:
Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc.
Gordon, C. (1985). False allegations of abuse in child
custody disputes. Minnesota Family Law Journal, 2(14), 225-228.
Green, A. H. (1986). True and false allegations of sexual
abuse in child custody disputes. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry,
Green, A. H. & Schetky, D. H. (1988). True and false
allegations of child sexual abuse. In D. H. Schetky & A. H. Green, Child
Sexual Abuse ()
(pp. 104-124). New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Gundersen, B. H., Melas, P.S., & Skar, J. E. (1981).
Sexual behavior in preschool children: Teachers' observations. In L. L.
Constantine & F. M. Martinson (Eds.), Children and Sex: New Findings,
New Perspectives ()
(pp. 45-51). Boston: Little, Brown
Guyer, M., & Ash, P. (1986, October 17). Child abuse
allegations in the context of adversarial divorce. Paper presented at the Annual
Meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Los Angeles.
Hall, J. E. (1989). Child abuse as a tool. Register Report, 15(4), 1,
Hindmarch, B. (1990). Allegations of child sexual abuse in
the context of custody/access disputes. Alberta Psychology, 19(1), 18-19.
Hughes, H. M., & Barad, S. J. (1983). Psychological functioning of children in a battered woman's shelter:
investigation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Jaffe, P., Wolfe, D., Wilson, S., & Zak, L. (1986).
Similarities in behavioral and social maladjustment among child victims and
witnesses to family violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Jones, D. P. H., & McGraw, I. M. (1987). Reliable and
fictitious accounts of sexual abuse to children.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 27-45.
Jones, D. P. H., & Seig. A. (1988). Child sexual abuse
allegations in custody or visitation cases: A report of 20 cases. In E. B.
Nicholson (Ed.), Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Cases
22-36). Washington, DC: American Bar Association.
Kaplan, S. L., & Kaplan, S. J. (1981). The child's
accusation of sexual abuse during a divorce and custody struggle. The Hillside
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 3, 81-95.
Kaser-Boyd, N. (1988). Fictitious allegations of sexual abuse
in marital dissolutions. Family Law News, 11(4), 45, 50-52.
Klajner-Diamond, H., Wehrspann, W., & Steinhauer, P.
(1987). Assessing the credibility of young children's allegations of sexual
abuse: Clinical issues.
Canadian Journal of
Psychiatry, 32, 610-614.
Köhnken, G., & Steller, M. (1988). The evaluation of the
credibility of child witness statements in the German procedural system. In G.
Davies & J. Drinkwater (Eds.) Issues in Criminological and Legal
(pp. 37-45). Leicester: British Psychological Society.
Legrand, R., Wakefield, H., & Underwager, R. (1989).
Alleged Behavioral Indicators of Sexual Abuse. Issues in Child Abuse
Accusations, 1(2), 1-5.
Levine, M., & Battistoni, L. (1991). The corroboration requirement in
child sex abuse cases. Behavioral Sciences &
the Law, 9, 3-20.
Levine, 5. (1986, May 20). Child abuse allegations in divorce come into
question. The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Levy, R. J. (1989). Using "Scientific" testimony to prove child
sexual abuse. Family Law
Quarterly, 23, 383A09.
Lloyd, D. W. (1990). Disobedience to a judicial order. An inappropriate
action. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 120-123.
Loftus, E., & Ketcham, K. (1991). Witness for the Defense ()(). New York:
MacFarlane, K., (1986). Child sexual abuse allegations in divorce
proceedings, In K. MacFarlane & J. Waterman (Eds.), Sexual Abuse of
Young Children ()()
(pp. 121-150). New York: The Guilford Press.
Mantell, D. M. (1988). Clarifying erroneous child sexual abuse allegations. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Martinson, F. M. (1981). Eroticism in infancy and childhood. In L. L.
Constantine & F. M. Martinson (Eds.), Children and Sex: New Findings,
New Perspectives ()
(pp. 23-35). Boston: Little, Brown
Meehl, P. E. (1989). Law and the fireside inductions (with postscript): Some
reflections of a clinical psychologist. Behavioral Sciences &
the Law, 7,
Money, J. (1985). Destroying Angels
(). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus
Murphy, C. (1987, March 9). Abuse charge is growing tactic in custody cases. The
Paradise, J. E. Rostain, A. L., & Nathanson, M. (1988). Substantiation of
sexual abuse charges when parents dispute custody or visitation. Pediatrics,
Podesta, J. S., & Van Biema, D. (1989, January 23). Running for their
lives. People, pp.70-88.
Porter, B., & O'Leary, D. (1980). Marital discord
and childhood behavior problems. Journal of Abnormal Psychology,
Quinn, K. M. (1988). Credibility of children's allegations of sexual abuse. Behavioral Sciences &
the Law, 6, 181-199.
Quinn, K. M., White, S., & Santilli, G. (1989). Influences of an
interviewer's behaviors in child sexual abuse investigations. The Bulletin of the
American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law,
Rand, D. C. (1989). Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy as a Possible Factor When
Abuse is Falsely Alleged. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 1(4),
Rand, D. C. (1990). Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy: Integration of Classic and
Contemporary Types. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 2(2),
Raskin, D. C., & Esplin, P. W. (1991). Assessment of children's
statements of sexual abuse. In J. Doris (Ed.), The Suggestibility of
Children's Recollections ()
(pp. 153-167). Washington, DC: American Psychological
Raskin, D. C., & Yuille, J. C. (1989). Problems in evaluating interviews
of children in sexual in abuse cases. In S. J. Ceci, D. F. Ross, & M. P.
Toglia (Eds.). Children Take the Stand: Adult Perceptions of Children's
(pp. 184-207). New York: Springer-Verlag.
Rogers, M. L., (1990). Coping With Alleged False Sexual Molestation:
Examination and Statement Analysis Procedures. Issues in Child Abuse
Accusations, 2(2), 57-68.
Ross, K., & Blush, G. (1990). Sexual Abuse Validity Discriminators in the
or Divorcing Family. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 2(1),
Schaefer, M., & Guyer, M. (1988, August). Allegations of sexual abuse in
custody and visitation disputes: A legal and clinical challenge. Paper presented at the 96th Annual
Convention of the American Psychological
Association, Atlanta, GA.
Schuman, D. C. (1986). False allegations of physical and sexual abuse. Bulletin of the
American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law,
Sgroi, S. M. (1982). Handbook of Clinical Intervention in Child Sexual
Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Sheridan, R. (1990). The False Child Molestation Outbreak of the 1980s: An
Explanation of the Cases Arising in the Divorce Context. Issues in Child Abuse
Accusations, 2(3), 146-151.
Sink, F. (1 988a). A hierarchal model for evaluation of child sexual abuse. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Sink, F. (1988b). Studies of true and false allegations: A critical review.
In E. B. Nicholson (Ed.), Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation
(pp. 37-47). Washington, DC: American Bar Association.
Sirles, E. A., & Lofberg, C. E. (1990). Factors associated with divorce
in intrafamily child sexual abuse cases.
Child Abuse & Neglect, 14, 165-170.
Slicner, N. A., & Hanson, S. R. (1989). Guidelines for videotape
interviews in child sexual abuse cases. American Journal of Forensic Psychology,
Spiegel, L. D. (1986). A Question of Innocence: A True Story of False
Accusation (). New Jersey: The Unicorn Publishing House.
Terr, L. (1988). Debate Forum: Anatomically correct dolls: Should they be
used as a basis for expert testimony? Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
Thoennes, N., & Pearson, J. (1988a). A difficult dilemma:
Responding to sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation disputes. In D.
J. Besharov (Ed.) Protecting Children From Abuse and Neglect ()
Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.
Thoennes, N., & Pearson, J. (1988b). Summary of findings
from the sexual abuse allegations project. In E. B. Nicholson (Ed.), Sexual
Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Cases ()
(pp.1-36). Washington, DC: American Bar Association.
Thoennes, N., & Tjaden, P. G. (1990). The extent, nature,
and validity of sexual abuse allegations in custody/visitation disputes.
Child Abuse & Neglect, 14, 151-163.
Undeutsch, U. (1988). The development of statement reality
analysis. In J. Yuille (Ed.), Credibility Assessment ()
(pp. 101-119). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Underwager, R., & Wakefield, H. (1990). The Real World of Child
Interrogations (). Springfield. IL:
C. C. Thomas.
Wakefield, H., Rogers, M., & Underwager, R. (1990).
Female Sexual Abusers: A Theory of Loss. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 2(4),
Wakefield, H. & Underwager, R. (1988). Accusations of Child Sexual
Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.
Wakefield, H. & Underwager, R. (1989). Manipulating the Child Abuse
System. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 1(2),
Wakefield, H., & Underwager, R. (1990). Personality Characteristics of
Parents Making False Accusations of Sexual Abuse in Custody Disputes. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations,
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1975). The effects of
parental divorce: The experiences of the preschool child. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry,
Wallerstein, J. S., & Kelly, J. B. (1980). Surviving the Breakup: How
Children and Parents Cope With Divorce (). New York:
Wehrspann, W. H., Steinhauer, P., & Klajner-Diamond, H.
(1987). Criteria and methodology for assessing credibility of sexual abuse
allegation. Canadian Journal of
Psychiatry, 32, 615-623.
Weiner, I. B. (1989). On competence and ethicality in
psychodiagnostic assessment. Journal of Personality Assessment,
Wolman, B. (Ed.). (1983). Handbook of Developmental Psychology (). Englewood Cliffs. NJ:
White, S. (1990). The investigatory interview with suspected
victims of child sexual abuse. In A. LaGreca (Ed.), Through the Eyes of Children
(pp. 369-394). Boston: Allyn/
White, S., & Quinn, K. M. (1988). Investigatory
independence in child sexual abuse evaluation: Conceptual considerations. The
Bulletin of the
American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law,
Yates, A. (1988). Sex abuse study challenges "sin qua
non." Convention Insights. 140th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Chicago, IL, p. 3.
Yates, A., & Musty, T. (1988). Preschool children's erroneous
allegations of sexual molestation. American Journal of Psychiatry,
|* The authors,
psychologists, are affiliated with the
Institute for Psychological Therapies
. Correspondence and requests for reprints should
be directed to the authors at:
Institute for Psychological Therapies
, 5263 130th Street East
, Northfield, MN 55057-4880
© 1991 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.