function; having a disability; earlier pubertal maturation; and the experience of early adversity.

Child maltreatment Child neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse are commonly thought to be risk factors for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors (Dalla et al., 2003; Williams and Fedderick, 2009). Support for this perspective originates in studies reporting that youth identify the sexual abuse they experienced as a child as a major influence on their becoming involved in commercial sexual exploitation. For example, 70 percent of the subjects in a U.S. study conducted by Silbert and Pines (1981) and 73 percent of those in a Canadian study conducted by Bagley and Young (1987) reported that childhood sexual abuse affected their path to involvement in commercial sex work. Silbert and Pines (1981) found that 78 percent of the 200 San Francisco prostitutes in their sample were prostituted as juveniles. In that study, the majority of those interviewed were under age 21, and one subject was only 10 years old. Sixty percent of the sample reported that they had been or were being sexually exploited; 67 percent reported sexual abuse during their childhood by a father figure (33 percent by their biological father), 28 percent by a brother, and 31 percent by friends of the family. In 82 percent of the episodes of abuse, some sort of force was used. Because the results of these studies are based on retrospective data, however, one cannot conclude that child maltreatment played a causal role in the youth’s commercial sexual exploitation.

In one of the few prospective studies on this subject, Widom and Kuhns (1996) examined the relationship between childhood maltreatment and promiscuity, prostitution, and teen pregnancy. The study used a prospective cohort design in which victims of child maltreatment were matched with nonabused children and followed into adulthood. Child neglect and sexual abuse were found to be associated with later prostitution among females. Although male victims of child abuse and/or neglect had a higher prevalence of being prostituted (12.54 percent) than females (8.93 percent), the study did not find an association with later prostitution for males. In another prospective study, Wilson and Widom (2010, p. 18) found that victims of maltreatment were more than twice as likely as nonvictims to report involvement in prostitution as adolescents or adults, as assessed through participants’ positive response to a question about whether they had “ever been paid for having sex with someone.” Stoltz and colleagues (2007) found a significant association between child maltreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect) and later involvement in prostitution among a sample of 361 drug-using, street-involved youth in Canada. On the other hand, Nadon and colleagues (1998) compared a sample of 45 female adolescents involved in prostitution and recruited from service organizations in areas known for prostitution



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement