Physical disabilities and low cognitive ability increase odds of minor sex exchange among adolescent males in the United States

Hannabeth Franchino-Olsen*, Hannah A. Silverstein, Nicole F. Kahn, Sandra L. Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disability is a well-established risk factor for sexual violence victimization among both male and female children. Some research indicates that adolescent females with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing minor sex exchange (a form of minor sex trafficking victimization) compared to females without disabilities, but there is a dearth of similar research among adolescent males. This study investigates whether physical disability and low cognitive ability are related to sex exchange among minor adolescent males. This cross-sectional analysis using data from a nationally representative cohort study, The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), included 4,401 male participants who were age 18 or younger at Wave II. Unadjusted and adjusted logistic regression models estimated the odds of adolescent experiences of sex exchange by physical disability and cognitive ability. Both severe physical disability and low cognitive ability in adolescent males were significantly associated with increased odds of exchanging sex, results similar to those found in studies of adolescent females. Because of these associations for both males and females, disability should be taken into account when designing and implementing prevention and intervention programs related to sex trafficking. These results underscore the importance of addressing system-wide gaps contributing to the relationship between disability and the involvement of minors in commercial sex exchange.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Early online date15 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Nov 2022


  • adolescence
  • cognitive
  • disability
  • minor
  • physical
  • sex exchange
  • trafficking


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