An exploratory study of pre-schooler's perceptions and understanding of concepts taught in the "Feeling special, feeling safe" sexual abuse prevention program : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
Child sexual abuse is a recognised problem worldwide. Education programs targeting school-aged children have been the main type of primary prevention of sexual abuse. Programs for pre-school aged children are a recent development with pre-schooler's developmental level posing a challenge. This study aimed to explore pre-schooler's understanding of the 'Feeling Special, Feeling Safe' program (FSFS) developed by the New Zealand Family Planning Association. It used both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The quantitative section used a between subjects design. Ninety-eight children from 8 Manawatu kindergartens completed an adapted version of the Children's Knowledge of Abuse Questionnaire Revision II (CKAQ-RII). The participant group (n=63, average age 4 yr. 7 mth.) completed the questionnaire after FSFS participation, and the control group (n=35, average age 4 yr. 6 mth.) before FSFS participation. Parents of children in the participant group completed a 6-item survey on how their child responded to FSFS, and their view of FSFS. In the qualitative section 8 participant group children were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format. It was hypothesised that participant group children would have more knowledge of prevention concepts than control group children would. This was supported by the results. The participant group scored significantly higher than the control group overall, and on items about appropriate responses and bullying. All children had difficulty identifying characteristics of strangers, understanding that a familiar person may perpetrate, and with the touch continuum concept. Parents generally viewed FSFS positively, although 13.5% observed negative behaviour changes stemming from the body ownership concept. Results are discussed in view of adaptations and extensions to FSFS and prevention programs for pre-schoolers in general that could aid children's learning and abuse prevention. FSFS was concluded to be a worthwhile prevention program for pre-school aged children.