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Research Objective and Design

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a recognized international issue of great magnitude that can impact children various ages, colors, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic classes (Mathews & Collin-Vézina, 2019). In spite of this subject being researched for over thirty years now, there are various gaps in the knowledge that researchers have about the impacts of child sexual abuse on children’s Psychological Health And Wellbeing. This gap is pronounced by the fact that CSA is often misunderstood, presented in an oversimplified manner and has a number of ethical and legal issues in methodology, which complicates the study of CSA. Studying the immediate and short-term impacts of CSA is essential as it helps the researcher acquire a complete picture of the extent to which CSA can cause damage to children, based on the knowledge of which, mental health professionals can develop interventional plan to help the child in the recovery process. This research will also amplify the urgent requirement for formulating preventive strategies to reduce the chances of CSA. On the social perspective, this issue under study is important, as it will help in the formulation of CSA recovery plans, policies and programs for children who have been victims of CSA at both local and national level. This will enhance the process of recovery and lead to the appropriate assistance that is essential for children with experience of CSA.

The nature of the study at hand will be quantitative in nature. This is because, in this study, the effect of the experience of CSA in children will be quantitatively measured on the psychological health and wellbeing of the children. The experience of sexual abuse in the children will be measured using a standardized victimization scale and the psychological health and wellbeing of the children will be measured using standardized psychological tools.

As measurable tools will be used to quantify the CSA experience and the psychological impacts on the children who have experienced CSA, therefore, the study is quantitative in nature.

The research will be cross-sectional in nature unlike most researches that study the long-term impacts of CSA on children. The research will take place in the same of point of time. Purposive sampling technique will be used collecting samples for the study. The sample will be screened through self-reports of CSA experience and the children’s experience will be measured using the CSA victimization scale immediately after the screening process (Bentley, Hartley & Bucci, 2019).

After the screening process, the children’s psychological health and wellbeing will be measured using psychologically standardized tools. The scales used for the measurement will have established reliability and validity. After the data is collected, the data will be analyzed using an appropriate statistical tool.

The advantage of using this research design is that the impact of the CSA experience on the children will be quantifiable and the use of standardized tools in the measurement will ensure that the data that is collected is done so in a scientific manner. The purposive sampling might not be as scientifically sound and free of bias as is the random sampling but as the sample size is restricted and it’s not easy to randomly choose children with the experience of CSA. Purposive sampling refers to the process of choosing samples best on the best judgment of the researcher (Klar & Leeper, 2019). As this a type of non-probability sampling, therefore, there are huge chances of researcher’s bias operating as a confounding variable (Sharma, 2017).  The research outcome thus obtained with the use of purposive sampling might not be consistent, reliable or generalizable. Another significant flaw in this research is the fact that a child’s personality, family support, understanding of the abuse, resilience, optimism and hope alongside other protective factors cannot be controlled (Rudolph & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2018). These factors cannot be matched. Therefore, these factors will operate as extraneous variables, which might interfere with the pure and true interrelation between the experience of abuse and its impact on the psychological health and wellbeing of the children.  

Sample Demographics

From the above discussion on the importance of this research and the gap in CSA research, the research question can be formulated as below:

  1. Is there any short-term impacts of CSA on the psychological health and wellbeing of the children who are victims?

From the above research question, the two hypotheses that can be developed are as follows:

Alternative hypothesis (H1) – There are negative short-term impacts of CSA on the psychological health and wellbeing of the children who are victims of CSA.

Null hypothesis (H0) – There are no short-term impacts of CSA on the psychological health and wellbeing of the children who are victims of CSA.

Sample

Description

The sample size will be 30 and the children who experienced CSA will be from the age of 6-12 years of age. The sample demographics will be as follows:

  1. 6-12 years of age
  2. Both males and females
  3. From low socio-economic background
  4. From indigenous background
  1. The children must be 6-12 years of age
  2. The children can be both males and females
  3. The children should be from low socio-economic background
  4. The children are from indigenous background
  5. The event of sexual abuse must have occurred within the last one year
  6. The sexual abuse event must have occurred within the residential care context (Blakemore etal., 2017)

It is very difficult to determine and exclusively define ‘short-term’ in this research context. The ‘short-term’ can be considered one-year time in case of this research. The participants (the children) will be informed about the aim and objective of the research, the ethical and legal considerations, the possibility of risk associated with the research and the implications of the research before the consent is taken. If the participants are deemed incompetent to provide consent to the research, the parents of the children will be explained about the research implications and the parents can provide the informed consent as required. The participants will be informed that all of their data that is collected will be store safely and will be dealt with confidentiality. The participants will also be explained about the possibility of breach of confidentiality when the data will be analyzed by the researcher in collaboration with other experts like psychologist and mental health professionals (Silverio et al., 2021). Participation harm will be identified, for example, the chances of the children’s stress, anxiety and fear of the perpetrator being revoked, the flashbacks of abuse, the trigger of PTSD symptoms and this risks will be managed adequately using emotional buffer as and when necessary (Sawrikar & Katz, 2017).

If possible, 15 males and 15 female samples will be selected based on the self-report or parental report of an event of sexual abuse that occurred within the last one year. The children with the report of sexual abuse will be chosen based on a screening test using the Child Sexual Assault Victim Credibility Scale (CSAVCS). If the score on this scale is above the cut-off, the children will be selected for the research. Purposive sampling, as discussed above will be used in the selection of samples. 

The sample size is kept at 30 as this is a pilot study and the sample size is large enough but not too large to render unmanageable. This sample size is perfect for the research. The comparison group will be between males and females. The comparison groups each will contain 15 samples. Even if the groups are not ideally equal, there will be no issues, as the number of samples will not influence the research outcome in this case.

The data will be collected using standardized psychological and victimization scales and through interviews. The data will be collected through interview using the questionnaire.

Informed Consent and Participation Harm

The following questionnaires will be used:

  1. Child Sexual Assault Victim Credibility Scale (CSAVCS) – This test will be used to verify the credibility of the sexual abuse faced by the children (Voogt, Klettke & Mohebbi, 2021).
  2. Juvenile victimization questionnaire (JVQ) – The subscale of sexual abuse in this particular JVQ scale will be used for measuring the experience of sexual abuse in children (Almeida et al., 2020).
  3. Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory (CASI) - assesses a range of behaviors related to common emotional and behavior disorders identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (Mpango et al., 2020).
  4. Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS-2) – This scale will measure the five major areas like the Interpersonal Strength, Family Involvement, Intrapersonal Strength, School Functioning, and Affective Strength of the children to quantify their behavioural and emotional health (Lambert et al., 2019).

The data collection method is by using standardized psychological tools, which have established reliability and consistency. Therefore, this method of use of standardized questionnaire for eliciting data can be scientifically valid. However, in the case of interviews, there are high chances of subjective biases and reporting errors. The experiences of the sexual abuse can be fragmented giving rise to inconsistent data.

There are four key ethical dilemmas in the field of research with child sexual abuse:

  1. The research might have an additional impact on the child. This could be considered as another confounding factor as this will hamper the interview of the children (Dayal et al., 2018).
  2. The extent of information related to the research that can provide by the researcher to the parents and the child. The researcher has to provide complete information about the research methods and objectives. There might be information about the research, which can be in conflict with the interest of the child and the parents.
  3. The child often does not possess the competence to provide consent to the research based on adequate information related to the risks and implications of the study. The child’s parents or guardians are provided the authority to consent to the study on behalf of the child.
  4. The need to weigh the consequences of maintaining confidentiality versus the protection of the child. In several cases, there can be a requirement of breach of confidentiality where the child’s protection is to be prioritized. This occurs mainly when the perpetrator is living within the immediate physical space of the child.

The key concepts that will be measured in this research are:

  1. Child sexual abuse – CSA refers to any intentional sexual exploitation by an adult perpetrator, of a child who is not of the age to engage in consensual sex (Finkelhor, 2019).
  2. Psychological health and wellbeing – This refers to the quality of life, resilience, optimism, affective strength, emotional stability, etc., which are essential for a healthy psyche.

The dependent variable in the research is psychological health and wellbeing. On the other hand, the independent variable is the child sexual abuse experience. Child Sexual Assault Victim Credibility Scale (CSAVCS) and Juvenile victimization questionnaire (JVQ) will measure the child sexual abuse experience. The psychological health and wellbeing of the children will be measured by using the Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory (CASI) and Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS-2) scales.

By establishing or by exploring the possibility of a correlation between the independent and dependent variables, it will be possible to understand if there is any existent relationship between the child sexual abuse experience and the psychological health and wellbeing of the children. The different subscales of the scales used to measure the health and wellbeing of the children will be linked to the CSA experience to determine if there exists a statistically significant relationship between the both or not.

Conclusion

Some of the major limitations of the study are the sample size, the sampling technique used, the ethical and legal dilemmas and the lack of controlling measures of the extraneous variables. The sample size is very small as it is only 30. This is because it is not easy to gather samples of children with CSA experiences. Non-probability sampling technique will be used which can cause researcher biases. The ethical and legal dilemma of confidentiality versus child protection is another drawback. There can also be ethical issues related to informed consent. There are no evidence-based, well-established extraneous variables controlling measures that can successfully control the impact of these extraneous variables on the unadulterated relationship between the independent and dependent variables.  

References

Almeida, T. C., Ramos, C., Brito, J., & Cardoso, J. (2020). The juvenile victimization questionnaire: Psychometric properties and poly-victimization among Portuguese youth. Children and youth services review, 113, 105001. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105001

Bentley, N., Hartley, S., & Bucci, S. (2019). Systematic review of self-report measures of general mental health and wellbeing in adolescent mental health. Clinical child and family psychology review, 22(2), 225-252. https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/82879815/CCFPR_Bentley_syst_review_Revised.docx

Blakemore, T., Herbert, J. L., Arney, F., & Parkinson, M. S. (2017). Impacts of institutional child sexual abuse on victims/survivors: A rapid review of research findings. https://calio.dspacedirect.org/handle/11212/3673

Dayal, R., Kalokhe, A. S., Choudhry, V., Pillai, D., Beier, K., & Patel, V. (2018). Ethical and definitional considerations in research on child sexual violence in India. BMC public health, 18(1), 1-13. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-018-6036-y

Dayal, R., Kalokhe, A. S., Choudhry, V., Pillai, D., Beier, K., & Patel, V. (2018). Ethical and definitional considerations in research on child sexual violence in India. BMC public health, 18(1), 1-13. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-018-6036-y

Finkelhor, D. (2019). Child sexual abuse: Challenges facing child protection and mental health professionals. In Childhood and Trauma (pp. 101-116). Routledge.

Klar, S., & Leeper, T. J. (2019). Identities and intersectionality: a case for Purposive sampling in Survey?Experimental research. Experimental Methods in Survey Research: Techniques that Combine Random Sampling with Random Assignment, 419-433. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119083771.ch21

Lambert, M. C., Sointu, E. T., & Epstein, M. H. (2019). A comprehensive review of international research using the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale. International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, 7(3), 215-226. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683603.2017.1422061

Mathews, B., & Collin-Vézina, D. (2019). Child sexual abuse: Toward a conceptual model and definition. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 20(2), 131-148. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838017738726

Mpango, R. S., Ssembajjwe, W., Muyingo, S. K., Gadow, K. D., Patel, V., & Kinyanda, E. (2020). Adaptation and validation of a brief DSM-5 based psychiatric rating scale for childhood and adolescent mental health in Uganda: the Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory-Progress Monitor (CASI-PM). Vulnerable children and youth studies, 15(2), 144-154. https://doi.org/10.1080/17450128.2019.1686672

Rudolph, J., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2018). Parents as protectors: A qualitative study of parents’ views on child sexual abuse prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect, 85, 28-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.08.016

Sawrikar, P., & Katz, I. (2017). Barriers to disclosing child sexual abuse (CSA) in ethnic minority communities: A review of the literature and implications for practice in Australia. Children and Youth Services Review, 83, 302-315. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.11.011

Sharma, G. (2017). Pros and cons of different sampling techniques. International journal of applied research, 3(7), 749-752.

Silverio, S. A., Bewley, S., Montgomery, E., Roberts, C., Richens, Y., Maxted, F., ... & Montgomery, J. (2021). Disclosure of non-recent (historic) childhood sexual abuse: What should researchers do?. Journal of medical ethics, 47(12), 779-783. https://jme.bmj.com/content/47/12/779.abstract

Voogt, A., Klettke, B., & Mohebbi, M. (2021). The development and validation of the Child Sexual Assault Victim Credibility Scale: An instrument to measure laypersons’ perceptions of victim credibility. Journal of interpersonal violence, 36(1-2), NP850-NP870. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260517737554

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