Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Collin Hollidge


Social Work


Child sex trafficking is a dark and prevalent underground industry in the US. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000 brought this issue to the closer attention of the criminal justice system, social services, and the general public. Increased awareness prompted states to respond with varied efforts of policy change and victim-centered outreach programs, which seek to decriminalize, destigmatize, and rehabilitate victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). However, the complex needs of this population complicate intervention. Preventative approaches require better understanding of the risk factors common among DMST victims. This research used a systematic literature review to answer the question: what psychosocial variables are common among victims of DMST prior to their exploitation? While research does not prove causation of these variables, their correlation with vulnerability to DMST is evident in their prevalence among victims. The author searched for research-based articles using databases SocIndex, PsychNet, and EbscoHost. Search terms included combinations of: sex trafficking, sex work, prostitution, sex slavery AND minors, adolescent, child OR childhood OR children, underage, AND youth. Inclusion criteria included publication after 2000. Fourteen studies met criteria. Synthesis of the findings found three common individual variables: history of abuse/neglect, substance use/abuse, and unstable home life; and three systemic variables: homelessness, “in the system,” and lack of support/material need. Findings indicate a need for more comprehensive, long term wrap-around services for those at risk and those already “in the life.” Further research is needed to engage larger communities in prevention as well as to inform solutions to the individual and systemic barriers that victims face in accessing care.

Included in

Social Work Commons