Date of Graduation

Spring 2012


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

Matthew Fanetti


child sexual abuse, divorce, perceptions, belief in the allegation, source of report

Subject Categories



Previous research has examined the influence of several "extralegal” factors on perceptions of child sexual abuse allegations (Bottoms et al., 2007). The purpose of the current study was to determine the impact of parental divorce, source of report, and participant gender on student participants' belief in an allegation of child sexual abuse. Undergraduate students were presented with one of four vignettes that detailed an incident of sexual abuse between a 5 year-old child and her father. The source of report was either the child's mother or the child's teacher. The child's parents were described as having an acrimonious or cooperative divorce. Participants were asked to read the vignette and rate their belief in the allegation using an analog Likert scale. The 2 (participant gender) x 4 (vignette condition) factorial ANOVA yielded a main effect for vignette condition, indicating that participants were more likely to believe the allegation of child sexual abuse if it was reported by the child's teacher and occurred during a cooperative divorce than if it was reported by the child's mother and occurred during a cooperative divorce. However, further analysis indicated that there was a ceiling effect in the data. A second study was conducted and the results indicated that there were no differences between vignette conditions in regards to belief in the allegation. However, female participants were more likely to believe the allegation of sexual abuse than male participants.


© Jessica A. Ware

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