An exploratory study of how developmental issues may impinge on the implementation of the 'Keeping ourselves safe' programme : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
Child sexual abuse has increasingly been recognised as a multi-faceted social problem. So far efforts to deal with this problem have mainly focussed on helping children recognise sexual abuse and teaching them skills to avert or stop sexual misbehaviour. Child sexual abuse prevention programmes are most frequently presented through schools because this approach provides easy access to children over an extended period of time. The Keeping Ourselves Safe Programme (KOS) is a prevention programme that has been specifically designed for use with New Zealand children. Empirical studies have shown that the degree to which children are able to benefit from participation in prevention programmes such as KOS, is influenced by the manner in which prevention concepts are presented and by children's cognitive and affective levels of development. So far it is not clear how children of different ages integrate prevention concepts. The aim of the present study was to explore children's perceptions and interpretations of the safety concepts presented to them through the KOS programme by combining both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Ninety-six children completed the Child Knowledge of Abuse Questionnaire - Revised II (CKAQ-RII). In addition twelve of them were recruited to take part in an in depth follow-up interview. Results support previous findings indicating that children's knowledge of factors surrounding sexual abuse increase with age. Furthermore, children have more difficulty incorporating an understanding of concepts surrounding sexual abuse than developing preventive skills. Formulations that posed problems included the ability to recognise inappropriate behaviour in adults, the concept of 'strangers' and the notion that a person known to the child might try to abuse them. The majority of students were able to use preventive strategies such as 'saying no' and 'telling a person you trust' appropriately in 'what if' problem solving exercises. Results suggest that it is important to use a clearly defined concrete approach involving role-plays and other behavioural techniques with six and seven year old children, without simultaneously introducing abstract concepts. Older children were able to deal with more abstract material. Limitations of the present study and suggestions for future research are discussed.