The goal of this study was to examine children’s expressed emotions in allegations of child sexual abuse, with particular interest to the influence of individual (gender, age at the time of the abuse and the hearing) and situational (type, severity and duration of sexual abuse) factors. Little research exists on this topic, although children’s emotional expressions at disclosure may play a crucial role in the credibility of the child and legal determinations. Ninety-six allegations of children (M = 10, DS = 3.7, range: 4-17 years) sexually abused were coded for children’s emotional displays (fear, sadness, disgust, anger, shame and guilt), through the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007). Results showed that many negative emotions were expressed in the narrative accounts and that individual and situational factors were significantly connected to the expression of some emotions.
Keywords: Child sexual abuse, emotions, traumatic narrative, linguistic analysis