Date of Award

Fall 8-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Mental Health Counseling



First Advisor or Mentor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Cynthia Calkins

Third Advisor

Rebecca Weiss


Sexual grooming is a manipulative process that is common in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA). Identifying sexual grooming behaviors holds potential to help reduce occurrences of CSA and increase disclosure rates. Yet, the few studies examining abilities to detect these behaviors have indicated that recognizing sexual grooming is difficult to do. Given gaps in the current grooming recognition literature, and the influential role parents play in sexual child abuse prevention this study reexamined adult’s abilities to recognize sexual grooming behaviors with a special focus on the impact of parental status. Differences in abilities to recognize grooming behaviors associated with specific stages of the process as identified in the Sexual Grooming Model (Winters et al., 2020) were also examined. The data resulting from a survey of 865 participants (420 parents and 445 nonparents) indicated that parents were better able to recognize behaviors associated with the Post-Abuse Maintenance stage of the Sexual Grooming Model, compared to nonparents. Surprisingly, parents performed less well than nonparents when associating behaviors related to the Trust Development stage of the grooming process with CSA. In examining the parent group alone, parents were found to be better able to recognize grooming behaviors related to the Desensitization to Touch stage or when all stages of the grooming process were presented together. Despite these statistically significant differences, both groups displayed low levels of associations between grooming behaviors and CSA on average. Ultimately, the findings of this study indicate a need for increased education for both parents and nonparents about the grooming process and its relation to preventing CSA.


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