Research identifies promising approaches for children with harmful or problem sexual behaviours

30 May 2017

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a new research report that finds children with problem or harmful sexual behaviours should have access to effective therapeutic services.

The Royal Commission contracted researchers from the University of Melbourne, the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute to examine current best evidence on treatment for children with problem sexual behaviour (aged under 10 years), harmful sexual behaviour (aged 10-17 years), and children who have sexually offended (aged 10-17 years). 

The research report, Rapid evidence assessment: Current best evidence in the therapeutic treatment of children with problem or harmful sexual behaviours, and children who have sexually offended, finds there are few rigorous, high-quality studies on this topic.

It finds information about the children who have received treatment is limited, particularly for children outside of the juvenile justice system and for children with problem sexual behaviour under the age of ten.

However, the research identifies promising approaches to addressing these behaviours. It concludes that key features of these approaches include using known effective behaviour change techniques, using individually delivered rather than group based approaches and using interventions mediated by parents or caregivers.

Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said according to the research, services that treat children with these behaviours should be delivered early and be therapeutic rather than punitive.

“The report points out that problem or harmful sexual behaviours are complex and highly stigmatised. Effective treatment requires considerable expertise,” Mr Reed said.

“The research also suggests that addressing these behaviours early is the best form of prevention. It is important to pay attention to the influence of contexts such as neighbourhood and community (for example, school and recreational organisations), which are crucial for both monitoring and managing behaviour.”

Mr Reed said this research will help inform the Royal Commission’s final recommendations, which will be delivered to government in December.

Read the report.

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