Addressing harmful sexual behaviours among children and young people: definitional and regulatory tensions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In recent years, concerns associated with harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) among children and young people have featured prominently in child protection and safeguarding policy and debates. Drawing on two empirical projects conducted by the authors, this chapter critically examines a range of definitional and regulatory tensions associated with HSB among young people. We argue that antiquated legal and policy frameworks fail to account for the diverse range of peer-based HSBs with which young people are presenting. In particular, we note how prevailing socio-cultural pressures are resulting in blurred boundaries around ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ sexual behaviour and ‘harmful’ and potentially ‘abusive’ sexual behaviour among peers. Therefore, this chapter (a) explores how emerging forms of peer-based HSB, including digital forms of HSB, are challenging how child sexual abuse (CSA) is defined and classified within social, legal and professional discourses, and (b) reveals some of the challenges and practical implications associated with investigating and managing HSB among young people, including the risk of overcriminalisation within certain contexts (for example, sexting).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChild sexual abuse in black and minoritised communities. Improving legal, policy and practical responses
EditorsAlisha K. Gill, Hannah Begum
ISBN (Electronic)9783031063374
ISBN (Print)9783031063367
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2023


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