Types of research
There are two basic kinds of research according to how the researchers choose the people they study. The conclusions that can be drawn from a particular study depends on the kind of research it is.
Clinical and Legal Studies
- These studies look at people who are identified by medical or psychiatric institutions or by police as having been sexually abused as children or adolescents.
- They provide information about children and adolescents who have told others about being coerced into sexual activity, or about their sexual behavior with an older person.
- They also provide information about minors who have been discovered by others to have had such experiences.
College, Convenience, and Probability Studies
- These studies involve college or university students, volunteers from the community, or randomly chosen people who are surveyed retrospectively about their sexual experiences as children or adolescents.
- They provide information about minors in the general population who have experienced sexual activity with older people or coerced sexual activity, but may not have reported it or been discovered.
- Because these studies include unreported incidents, they may include more incidents of sex play or romantic relationships with older people, and those experienced as less problematic.
- They may also include incidents in which the minor had been scared or too embarrassed to report them.
Thus, clinical and legal studies may involve children and adolescents who have had very different sexual experiences from many of those in college, convenience, and probability studies. Therefore, the results may be quite different. For this reason, on the following pages, studies that involve clinical and legal samples are presented separately from those that do not.
Researchers often conduct reviews of the literature that examine a large number of previously conducted studies and attempt to synthesize their findings. They search for consistent patterns that will lead to more powerful and reliable conclusions than would be possible from a single study. The findings and bibliographies presented on this site are based on both single studies and literature reviews.