Comparative healthcare use by adolescents screening positive for sexual exploitation.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2023.106201


BACKGROUND: Although screens for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) have been developed, little is known about how adolescents at high risk for, or victims of, CSEC compared to non-CSEC adolescents in healthcare utilization as previous studies have not included a control group.

OBJECTIVE: Identify where and how often CSEC adolescents presented to medical care in 12 months prior to being identified as compared to non-CSEC adolescents.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Adolescents between 12 and 18 years seen in a tertiary pediatric health care system in a Midwestern city with a metropolitan population of >2 million.

METHODS: This was a 46-month retrospective case-control study. Cases included adolescents who screened high risk or positive for CSEC. Control group 1 included adolescents who screened negative for CSEC. Control group 2 were adolescents who were not screened for CSEC, matched to cases and to control group 1. The three study groups were compared for frequency of, location of, and diagnosis given for medical visits.

RESULTS: There were 119 CSEC adolescents, 310 CSEC negative, and 429 unscreened adolescents. Compared to the controls, CSEC positive adolescents sought care less frequently (p < 0.001) and were more likely to present to an acute care setting (p < 0.0001). CSEC cases sought medical care in the acute setting more commonly for inflicted injuries (p < 0.001), mental health (p < 0.001), and reproductive health (p = 0.003). In primary care, CSEC adolescents were more commonly seen for reproductive health (p = 0.002) and mental health (p = 0.006).

CONCLUSIONS: CSEC adolescents differ from non-CSEC adolescents in frequency, location, and reasons for seeking healthcare.

Journal Title

Child abuse & neglect



First Page


Last Page


MeSH Keywords

Humans; Adolescent; Child; Case-Control Studies; Retrospective Studies; Child Abuse, Sexual; Human Trafficking; Patient Acceptance of Health Care


Human trafficking; Sex trafficking

Library Record