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Objective: To explore relevant literature about sexual abuse allegations arising in child custody disputes. Method: A literature review of false allegations is given and the contribution of gender bias to this issue is discussed. The role a child psychiatrist may play in such cases is outlined. Results: Contrary to much popular and professional opinion, sexual abuse allegations are found in only 2% of child custody disputes, and, of these, 8% to 16.5% are false. While false allegations arise for a variety of reasons, the word 'false' can imply both erroneous and deceitful activities. This ambiguity, along with gender bias, may lead to disbelief of and blame towards, parents who report sexual abuse in the context of a dispute about custody or access. Conclusion: The child psychiatrist who testifies in such custody disputes should have caution, humility, and an open mind both in the courtroom and in dealing with other professionals working in this area




Penfold, P. S. (1995). Mendacious moms or devious dads? Some perplexing issues in child custody/sexual abuse allegation disputes. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 40(6), 337–341.

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