Health Issues Associated with Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Children in the United States: A Systematic Review

Phuong Thao D. Le, Nessa Ryan, Yael Rosenstock, Emily Goldmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

This article reviews studies examining health issues associated with commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking (CSE/ST) of children in the United States. We searched five health and social sciences databases for peer-reviewed articles published in English between January 1990 and April 2017. After independent screening of the records, we identified 27 studies that met the inclusion criteria. Descriptions of the included studies and their definitions of CSE/ST are provided. Most of the studies sampled children and youth in urban, metropolitan areas and employed cross-sectional surveys or reviewed case files and medical records of convenience samples. Studies differed widely in their operationalization of CSE/ST, which limit systematic comparison across studies and the generalizability of findings. Qualitative analysis of the included studies shows that among commercially sexually exploited/trafficked children, there are elevated burdens of substance use and abuse, mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, suicidal behaviors, and sexual and reproductive health issues including STIs, HIV, and pregnancy. This review underscores the need for more empirical studies, to guide an evidence-based understanding of and response to the range and complexity of the health issues in this population. Of particular utility are studies that address some of the methodological limitations of prior research in this field (e.g., cross-sectional, convenience samples) and those that assess overlooked health issues (e.g., malnutrition, eating disorders, post-trauma growth, and long-term health consequences).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-233
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Medicine
Volume44
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018

Keywords

  • United States
  • children
  • commercial sexual exploitation
  • human trafficking
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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