Wednesday, April 3, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 122


Study ties abused children to crime

Cougar News Staff

Research conducted at UH has revealed that people who experience unsolicited sexual touching before puberty have a greater
chance of spending time in jail when they are teenagers or adults.

Russell Curtis and Karl Eschbach, who are both associate professors of sociology, and associate professor of social work Patrick
Leung analyzed data from the 1993 National Health and Social Life survey to reach their conclusions. The survey randomly sampled
3,362 people, aged 18 to 59, throughout the United States.

The UH researchers focused on people who were sexually touched before puberty and what happened to them later in life. 

The results showed that individuals who experienced unsolicited sexual encounters before age 12 were significantly more likely to
serve jail time later. They were also more likely to be sexually promiscuous, run away from home at an early age and engage in
criminal activity.

Socioeconomic background had more influence on these outcomes than did factors such as race and gender, the researchers

"While there were more actual reports from those within upper socioeconomic backgrounds, the overall impact on unsolicited
sexual touching is greater on lower-income groups," Curtis said, adding that since people from middle- and upper-class
backgrounds have greater access to help when such events occur, they may be better able to move past them.

"My contention is that individuals from middle and upper families have easier access to adaptive resources, such as counseling,
while lower-income groups are less able to adapt," Curtis said.

Males who were touched before puberty were 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than those who were not, and females were
twice as likely. 

Males who were sexually touched before puberty were also found to be 2.66 times more likely to use needles to inject illegal drugs.

The UH researchers said previous studies in a similar vein consisted of nonrepresentative clinical samples, which often overstated

"From our findings, we hope for three future outcomes," Leung said.

"First, more preventative education about prepubertal touching ­ what it is, how it affects individuals ­ and counseling for those who
have been touched," he said. 

"Second, there is a need for more services for those children who have been touched, including counselors who are sensitive and
culturally savvy," Leung said. "Third, schools need to take a more active role in helping to identify and define sexual touching."

The survey was published in the January 2002 issue of the Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect.

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