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Demographic and Psychosocial Factors Associated With Child Sexual Exploitation

Jessica J. Laird, GradDip(Hons); Bianca Klettke, PhD; Kate Hall, DPsy; Elizabeth Clancy, MPsy, MBA; David Hallford, DPsy – 2020

IMPORTANCE Although research has examined factors associated with child sexual exploitation (CSE), consensus is lacking in regard to which factors should be prioritized, thereby hindering policy reform, prevention efforts, and development of early detection and intervention. OBJECTIVE To provide a meta-analytic synthesis of studies examining factors associated with CSE and to quantify their relative importance. DATA SOURCES Electronic databases searched to June 2019 included Medline, PsycINFO, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, EMBASE, and Inform it, yielding 396 nonduplicative records. Literature search was performed in July 2019. STUDY SELECTION Inclusion criteria were quantitative investigations of sexual exploitation and mean sample age of 18 years or younger. DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS Literature review and data extraction followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Thirty-seven studies met final inclusion criteria. Two independent reviewers extracted all relevant data. Random effects meta-analyses were used to derive odds ratios (ORs) for each factor. Data were analyzed from September 1 to October 28, 2019, and prediction intervals calculated in June 2020. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Child sexual exploitation, defined as coerced sexual acts between a child or a young person (aged 18 years) and an individual or a group in exchange for money, gifts, substances, or other commodities and associated factors. RESULTS Thirty-seven unique studies were included with a total of 67 453 unique participants (mean [SD] age of 16.2 [2.5] years; 49.9% female). Fifty-two factors associated with CSE were included in the meta-analysis. The strongest factors significantly associated with exposure to sexual exploitation were engagement in sexual risk behaviors (OR, 6.31 [95% CI, 3.12-12.76]; P < .001), having more than 5 sexual partners (OR, 5.96 [95% CI, 1.63-21.87]; P = .007), a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (OR, 5.29 [95% CI, 3.40-8.22]; P < .001), historical exposure to child pornography (OR, 5.50 [95% CI, 0.99-30.53]; P = .049), and a history of childhood sexual abuse (OR, 3.80 [95% CI, 3.19-4.52]; P < .001). A number of other potentially modifiable factors had moderate to strong associations.