Specificity and Sensitivity of Sexually Anatomically Correct Dolls in Substantiating Abuse: A Pilot Study


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Sexually anatomically correct dolls are often used to verify or refute allegations of sexual abuse in young children. As a test of their effectiveness in facilitating decisions about the abuse status of young children, the authors conducted blind interviews with six abused subjects, five nonclinic controls and four psychiatric controls. The child psychiatrist interviewer followed a standardized protocol and was able to correctly categorize 33% of the abused and 67% of the nonabused children. Proper classification was 53% for the sample using this protocol. The authors' preliminary conclusion is that, without other information available to the interviewer, sexually anatomically correct dolls are a poor source of information to decide the abuse status of a young child. The authors recommend that professionals should be cautious when basing decisions on a single instrument, such as sexually anatomically correct dolls. Mental health professionals are encouraged to maintain quality standards in evaluation of children by conducting a comprehensive examination in child sexual abuse cases. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1990, 29, 5:743–746.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-746
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1990

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AcceptedJanuary31, 1990. All authors were affiliated with the University ofMinnesota when this study was conducted. The authors wish to thank our project manager, Andrew Clayton; the Comprehensive Clinic for Abused and Traumatized Children; and the Institute ofChild Development ofthe University ofMinnesotafor assistance inpatient recruitment. We would also like to thank the University ofMinnesota Graduate School for grant support and Lois Laitinen for manuscriptpreparation. This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting ofthe AmericanAcademy ofChildandAdolescentPsychiatry inNew York, New York, on October14, 1989. Reprint requests to Dr. Realmuto, Division ofChild and Adolescent Psychiatry, Box 95, University ofMinnesota Hospital and Clinic, Harvard Street at East RiverRoad, Minneapolis, MN 55455. 0890-8567/90/2905-0743$02.0010© 1990 by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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  • anatomical dolls
  • children
  • sexual abuse


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