Primary Sources: Delaying Sex May Protect Abused Teens From Sex Trafficking

Photograph of a teen couple holding hands.

"The Role of Youth Problem Behaviors in the Path From Child Abuse and Neglect to Prostitution: A Prospective Examination" (abstract). Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol. 20 No. 1, March 2010.

What it's about: The authors compared abused and neglected children with others who had not experienced abuse or neglect. Researchers followed the participants through adulthood in order to determine who was most likely to become a victim of sex trafficking, or prostitution, in adolescence and early adulthood.

Why read it: Previous research documents a link between child abuse and neglect and later victimization as sex workers. But little has been known about what behaviors, on the part of teens, might cause that link to manifest itself. The authors of this study attempt to identify the behaviors that put abused and neglected youth most at risk.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Out of the behaviors the authors examined, having sex before age 15 had the strongest link to later becoming victims of sex trafficking. That observation leads the authors to argue that interventions to promote healthy sexual behavior among teens, as well as to prevent adults from neglecting them or abusing them physically or sexually, may have the added benefit of preventing sex trafficking. 

Additional reference: Early sexual initiation is not always voluntary. The Child Welfare Information Gateway's "Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Addressing the Mental Health of Sexually Abused Children" aims to help social workers better care for sexually abuse children.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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