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Harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people – NICE guidelines


The National Institute for Health and Excellence (NICE) have published new guidance to enable practitioners to help children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour.

Harmful sexual behaviour describes when children or young people engage in sexual discussions or acts that are inappropriate for their age or development.

Many will naturally grow out of these behaviours, so whilst it is important they are not unnecessarily stigmatised, their actions should also not be ignored.

In the cases of a small number of children and young people who commit sexual offences there is evidence that shows early opportunities to recognise and address their behaviours were missed.

The guideline calls for a joined up approach by universal services, child health services, children’s social services and the voluntary sector when responding to concerns about a child or young person’s sexual behaviour.

Recommendations include:

  • Named safeguarding leads (in universal services such as schools) should use locally agreed resources to assess concerns about the sexual behaviour of a child or young person.
  • Practitioners should use risk assessment tools that are suitable for the child or young person’s developmental age and gender.
  • Practitioners should consider engaging with families and carers before beginning an intervention.
  • Design care plans and structure interventions to meet the needs of the individual child or young person.

The guideline also identifies the need for further research into the impact electronic media has on sexual behaviour.



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