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Children with Sexual Behavior Problems: Common Misconceptions vs. Current Findings

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2003
4 pages
Ten common misconceptions about children with problematic sexual behaviors (PSBs) are challenged with current relevant research findings.
The misconception that all sexual behavior between children is normal, acceptable play is challenged by research that shows some of children's sexual behaviors go beyond the bounds of normalcy and can cause serious harm to the offenders and their victims. Such sexual behaviors are intrusive, aggressive, or coercive. The misconception that children with PSBs have themselves been sexually abused is challenged by research that shows multiple factors linked to such behavior, including exposure to family violence and being a victim of physical abuse. Further, the belief that children who have been sexually abused will later act out sexually with other children is not supported by research, which shows that most sexually abused children do not engage in PSB. In countering the misconception that girls rarely have PSBs, research shows that approximately one-third of school-age children with PSBs are girls; among preschool children, the majority (65 percent) were found to be girls. The belief that children with PSBs should not live in a home with other children is dispelled by research which show that appropriate treatment and careful supervision enable most children with PSBs to live safely with other children. Research also indicates that outpatient treatment is successful for most children with PSB, thus undermining the belief that such children should be placed in specialized inpatient or residential treatment facilities. Other common misconceptions challenged by research are that children with PSBs should not attend public schools, that their PSBs will continue unless they receive long-term intensive therapy, and that they will become adult sex offenders. 21 references

Date Published: July 1, 2003