Harmful Sexual Behaviour


The Scottish Government’s 2020 report by The Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People defines Harmful Sexual Behaviour(s) as: ‘Sexual behaviour(s) expressed by children and young people under the age of 18 that are developmentally inappropriate and may be harmful towards self or others and/or be abusive towards another child or young person’.

Whilst sexualised behaviour can be a natural, healthy part of growing up, some children and young people may develop inappropriate and problematic habits, or display sexually harmful behaviour.

Examples of harmful sexual behaviour can include sexual touching of others without consent, taking/sharing sexual images of other children, or engaging much younger children in sexual conversation/activity.

Distinguishing between appropriate non-abusive behaviour and inappropriate or abusive behaviour can be a complex task that requires practitioners to have an understanding of what is healthy and informed consent and what is abusive or coercive.

The resources linked to from this page can help professionals and parents identify, understand, and respond to Harmful Sexual Behaviour.

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Preventing Harmful Sexual Behaviour in childhood and adolescence

Year: 2017 | Topic:  | Author:
This online resource has been developed by the Upstream Project - Stop it Now! Scotland and includes links to a range of resources for parents, carers, and professionals.
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Healthy relationships and consent: key messages for young people

Year: 2019 | Topic:  | Author:
A resource for professionals which aims to help them support young people in their understanding of healthy relationships and consent.
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Framework for Risk Assessment Management and Evaluation (FRAME) with children aged 12-17

Year: 2021 | Topic: Harmful sexual behaviour | Author: The Scottish Government
When working with children where parts of their behaviour may cause or have caused serious harm, the approach taken should be informed by thinking of them as children first and foremost. Children are not ‘mini-adults’ and the reasons they may present with such behaviours cannot be understood through an adult lens.
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A Guide to Youth Justice in Scotland: policy, practice and legislation

Year: 2021 | Topic: Harmful sexual behaviour | Author: Children and Young People's Centre for Justice
This guidance from the Children and Young People's Centre for Justice (CYCJ), is aimed at practitioners and managers working with children and young people who are in conflict with the law, or who are at risk of being so.  There are a small but significant number of children and young people in Scotland who present a risk of serious harm to themselves and others as a result of their involvement in harmful sexual behaviour and/or serious acts of violence.