Genitalia in human figure drawings: Childrearing practices and child sexual abuse

Roberta Ann Hibbard, Georgia Hartman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

To replicate and explore the associations of drawing genitalia on a human figure, child-rearing practices, and a history of alleged sexual abuse, we designed a cross-sectional study of 109 alleged child sexual abuse victims, ages 3 through 8 years, and a group of 109 comparison children matched for age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status but with no history of abuse. A standardized format was used to collect drawings, administer the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, and gather background data on medical, developmental, and child-rearing issues. Seven alleged sexual abuse victims and one comparison child spontaneously drew genitalia (p=0.02, one-tailed Fisher Exact Test, estimated relative risk 7.96). No differences in drawing maturity (Draw-A-Man score) were identified, although Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test scores were higher in comparison children (82.1 vs. 91.0, p<0.01). Neither drawing genitalia nor history of alleged sexual abuse were significantly associated with histories of medical problems, enuresis, encopresis, urinary tract infection, or child-rearing practices related to sleeping, nudity, bathing, sexual abuse education, or exposure to sexually explicit materials. The similar patterns of child-rearing practices in both samples should make professionals cautious in attributing allegations of abuse to specific child-rearing practices. This study confirms our previous report that the presence of genitalia spontaneously drawn on a child's drawing of a human figure is associated with alleged sexual abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-828
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of pediatrics
Volume116
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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