Differences Between Sexually And Non-Sexually Abused Children In Their Behavioral Responses To Anatomically Correct Dolls

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology


The purpose of this study was to determine whether there were differences between sexually and non-sexually abused children in their behavioral responses to anatomically correct dolls.Volunteer subjects were 16 5-8 year old non abused female children and 16 5-8 year old sexually abused female children. A standard protocol was utilized for the introduction of anatomically correct dolls. After a warm-up period between the child and the examiner, a family of four anatomically correct dolls was presented to the child. The child was told that the dolls were a little different than dolls she may have seen before and that they had all of their body parts. Children were left alone with the dolls for a period of five minutes and instructed to play with the dolls and to change their clothes. The examiner returned and asked the child to tell a story about the family of dolls for a period of three minutes. The entire session was video-taped and the behaviors were rated by two raters using a specially designed behavior checklist. Four behaviors were examined in the Alone Condition and in the Storytelling Condition. These behaviors were; Freeplay, Avoidance, Aggression, and Private Parts References. T-tests were computed to examine the differences between abused and non abused children.The results of this study support the contention that there are differences in how sexually abused and non abused children respond behaviorally to anatomically correct dolls when asked to tell stories about the dolls and while the children played alone with the dolls. Sexually abused children exhibited significantly less Freeplay behavior than non abused children perhaps because more energy was spent in avoiding the dolls when in the presence of an adult. Abused children were also more preoccupied with Private Parts while alone with the dolls. Both sexually and non sexually abused children exhibited few private parts references in the presence of an adult leading to the conclusion that children were suppressing in the presence of an adult. An incidental finding was that many therapists were uncomfortable using anatomically correct dolls and it is highly recommended that the dolls be used only after specialized training and desensitization.


Education, Educational Psychology

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