Psychoanalysis and child sexual abuse: A review of the post-Freudian literature

E. K. Wolf, J. L. Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article reviews the post-Freudian psychoanalytic literature that focuses on child sexual abuse. Most of the articles reviewed are case presentations; there is little new theoretical work and few empirical studies. The present review focuses on the nature and effects of abuse; the parental dynamics in incestuous families; treatment issues and outcomes; and theory. The review results in the following observations: (a) Father-daughter incest is the form of abuse most frequently indicated in these articles; (b) little literature exists on the abuse of boys; (c) the effects of sexual abuse are often serious and enduring; (d) little literature exists on treatment issues, specifically whether and how analysis should be modified with the sexually abused population; (e) there is no consensus about what is curative; and (f) treatment outcomes vary widely. Although contributions to the psychoanalytic literature on child sexual abuse have increased dramatically in the last 10 years, further investigation is indicated. The article concludes with a discussion of some areas for additional work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-327
Number of pages23
JournalPsychoanalytic Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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