Research Article|Articles in Press

Child Sexual Abuse and Employment Earnings in Adulthood: A Prospective Canadian Cohort Study

Published:February 25, 2023DOI:


      Child sexual abuse remains a worldwide concern with devastating consequences on an individual's life. This longitudinal study investigates the associations between child sexual abuse (official reports versus retrospective self-reports) and subgroups by perpetrator identity (intrafamilial and extrafamilial), severity (penetration/attempted penetration, fondling/touching, noncontact), and chronicity (single, multiple episodes) and employment earnings in adulthood in a cohort followed for over 30 years.


      The Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children database was linked to child protection services (official reports of sexual abuse) and to Canadian government tax returns (earned income). The sample included 3,020 individuals in Quebec French-language school kindergartens in 1986/1988, followed until 2017, and assessed with retrospective self-reports at age 22 years. Tobit regressions were used for associations with earnings (ages 33–37 years), adjusting for sex and family socioeconomic characteristics in 2021–2022.


      Individuals who experienced child sexual abuse had lower annual earnings. Those with retrospective self-reported sexual abuse (n=340) earned $4,031 (95% CI= –7,134, –931) less annually at ages 33–37 years than nonabused individuals (n=1,320), with pronounced differences for those with official reports (n=20), earning $16,042 (95% CI= –27,465, –4,618) less. Individuals self-reporting intrafamilial sexual abuse earned $4,696 (95% CI= –9,316, –75) less than those who experienced extrafamilial sexual abuse, whereas those self-reporting penetration/attempted penetration earned $6,188 (95% CI= –12,248, –129) less than those who experienced noncontact sexual abuse.


      Earnings gaps were highest for severest child sexual abuse (official reports, intrafamilial, penetrative). Future studies should investigate the underlying mechanisms. Improving support for victims of child sexual abuse could yield socioeconomic returns.
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