Harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people: Expert Group report

This report sets out proposals from the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People to improve prevention and early intervention in response to harmful sexual behaviour involving children and young people.

Chapter 2: Methodology of the Review

To achieve a greater understanding of the wider societal and technological changes that have led to new volumes and breadths of harmful sexual behaviours being reported, the Expert Group explored the current landscape, including:

  • the nature[24], causes[25] and frequency[26] of such behaviours
  • existing approaches to prevention and intervention[27]
  • strengths and gaps in current policy, practice and provision[28] and current best practice (including insights from other countries)[29]

The Group considered options for proposals to improve prevention of harm for all children and young people in Scotland, whether that involves preventing the potential of a child or young person to cause harm, or of being harmed by another child or young person.

Sources of Evidence Considered

The examination and understanding of HSB involving children and young people causing harm to themselves and to other children and young people is a large and developing practice base. It is a contested area with sometimes competing definitions and perspectives.

Between January 2018 and March 2019, members of the Expert Group considered a wide range of evidence including research literature, papers and reports; and information contained in relevant media articles.[30] A number of presentations and papers were delivered to the Group across the lifespan of its work. Further evidence was gathered from visits by Group members to organisations who work directly with children and young people, and from participation at various conferences.[31]

Following on from discussions during the initial three meetings, the Group convened sub groups involving further experts to explore and report back to the whole Group on the following subjects in more depth:

  • Children and Young People with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Collaborative Working
  • Data and Intelligence
  • Intra-familial Behaviours
  • Internet Pornography
  • Involvement of Younger Children
  • Use of the NSPCC Audit Tool
  • Peer on Peer Abuse
  • Risk Assessments and Responses

Evidence was also considered from a number of recent reports which contained direct feedback from children and young people on their experiences of behaviours by other children and young people, in person and on the internet.

The Scottish Youth Parliament was commissioned by the Group to carry out a survey of young people; and further feedback was obtained from Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) at workshops conducted at the 67th National Sitting of the Scottish Youth Parliament (in October 2018).

The Expert Group created a survey, 'Attitudes Towards On-line Sexual Activity' which was hosted on the Young Scot website in early 2019. The survey was also completed by some young people in Her Majesty's Young Offenders Institution (HMYOI) Polmont and Secure Schools.[32]

Focus groups within HMYOI Polmont and three secure centres were also held to gain the views of young people.

The Expert Group held a "Sounding Board" event in October 2018 to share its approach and emerging findings with a wide selection of over 120 organisations who work with children and young people, including those representing parents and carers[33], to obtain further feedback and insights from these experts.


Email: Child_Protection@gov.scot

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