Presentation Title

What Happens Now? Using Best Practice Models to Support Children with Problematic Sexual Behaviors

Authors' Names

Brittany August

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

In 2016, approximately 20-25% of all cases handled at Child Advocacy Centers the alleged offenders of sexual abuse were under the age of eighteen (National Children’s Alliance, 2017). Identifying children who sexually harm one another as sex offenders is problematic. We should refer to them as children that exhibit problematic sexualized behaviors (PSB). Children with PSB describes the behavior as opposed to labeling the child. The most adopted definition in the literature of PSB is "children ages 12 and younger who initiate behaviors, involving sexual body parts (i.e., genitals, anus, buttocks, or breasts) that are developmentally inappropriate or potentially harmful to themselves or others" (Chaffin et al., 2008, p. 200). Chaffin et al. (2008) found that children exhibiting PSB have a wide range of heterogeneous experiences. Children with PSB experience a great amount of stigma and misinformation about childhood sexual experiences, which may result in consequences such as school expulsion and social isolation. Academics and practitioners use the term children with PSB because it labels the behavior as opposed to labeling the child as a sex offender. Chaffin et al. (2008) note that PSB is not a medical condition, psychological syndrome, or a diagnosable disorder. Rather, they are a, "set of behaviors that fall well outside acceptable societal limits," which may or may not be sexually gratifying (Chaffin et al., 2008, p. 200).

A formative and exploratory project was completed to gain an increased understanding of what PSBs are and how community members could support children and families. This evaluation seeks to guide and direct new programs and interventions and is based on model standards from The University of Oklahoma National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth evidence-based programs (Allen, 2018; Royse, Thyer, & Padgett, 2016; St. Amand, Bard, & Silovsky, 2008). The project was part of an existing diversionary program of core community stakeholders. This multifaceted project will use applied research skills which is a practice that seeks to find a resolution to a specific problem. The project has explored the prevalence of PSB in Missoula, etiological factors, and the need for establishing an evidence-based model to support children and family health. To date, this project has discovered systems gaps that currently exist in data collection and analysis.

The exploratory study will be pilot-tested beginning spring 2019 with five families. The pilot will include a formative evaluation to seek increased knowledge within the Missoula community, clients, and stakeholders to lead to more informed choices and shape future programming and procedures. The diversionary committee is determined to initially focus on providing supports to school-age children and early adolescents (ages 6-14) that meet participant guidelines, including (a) having experienced trauma and exhibit trauma symptoms, (b) have engaged in problematic sexual behavior, and (c) have involved caregivers. Families and children that meet pilot program criteria will then be referred to clinicians practicing Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based treatment model for children with traumatic histories. Allen (2018) expanded upon existing model components and offered PSB-specific techniques, which include establishing family-defined sexual behavior rules and safety plans. The goal at the end of this pilot is to have developed an evidence-based and community-based PSB treatment model with a trauma-focus.

Mentor Name

Jim Caringi

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What Happens Now? Using Best Practice Models to Support Children with Problematic Sexual Behaviors

UC 331

In 2016, approximately 20-25% of all cases handled at Child Advocacy Centers the alleged offenders of sexual abuse were under the age of eighteen (National Children’s Alliance, 2017). Identifying children who sexually harm one another as sex offenders is problematic. We should refer to them as children that exhibit problematic sexualized behaviors (PSB). Children with PSB describes the behavior as opposed to labeling the child. The most adopted definition in the literature of PSB is "children ages 12 and younger who initiate behaviors, involving sexual body parts (i.e., genitals, anus, buttocks, or breasts) that are developmentally inappropriate or potentially harmful to themselves or others" (Chaffin et al., 2008, p. 200). Chaffin et al. (2008) found that children exhibiting PSB have a wide range of heterogeneous experiences. Children with PSB experience a great amount of stigma and misinformation about childhood sexual experiences, which may result in consequences such as school expulsion and social isolation. Academics and practitioners use the term children with PSB because it labels the behavior as opposed to labeling the child as a sex offender. Chaffin et al. (2008) note that PSB is not a medical condition, psychological syndrome, or a diagnosable disorder. Rather, they are a, "set of behaviors that fall well outside acceptable societal limits," which may or may not be sexually gratifying (Chaffin et al., 2008, p. 200).

A formative and exploratory project was completed to gain an increased understanding of what PSBs are and how community members could support children and families. This evaluation seeks to guide and direct new programs and interventions and is based on model standards from The University of Oklahoma National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth evidence-based programs (Allen, 2018; Royse, Thyer, & Padgett, 2016; St. Amand, Bard, & Silovsky, 2008). The project was part of an existing diversionary program of core community stakeholders. This multifaceted project will use applied research skills which is a practice that seeks to find a resolution to a specific problem. The project has explored the prevalence of PSB in Missoula, etiological factors, and the need for establishing an evidence-based model to support children and family health. To date, this project has discovered systems gaps that currently exist in data collection and analysis.

The exploratory study will be pilot-tested beginning spring 2019 with five families. The pilot will include a formative evaluation to seek increased knowledge within the Missoula community, clients, and stakeholders to lead to more informed choices and shape future programming and procedures. The diversionary committee is determined to initially focus on providing supports to school-age children and early adolescents (ages 6-14) that meet participant guidelines, including (a) having experienced trauma and exhibit trauma symptoms, (b) have engaged in problematic sexual behavior, and (c) have involved caregivers. Families and children that meet pilot program criteria will then be referred to clinicians practicing Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based treatment model for children with traumatic histories. Allen (2018) expanded upon existing model components and offered PSB-specific techniques, which include establishing family-defined sexual behavior rules and safety plans. The goal at the end of this pilot is to have developed an evidence-based and community-based PSB treatment model with a trauma-focus.