For Parents

Typology of sexual behaviour

The influences that can be exerted on children’s sexual behaviours are manifold. For example, age-appropriate sexual behaviours can be affected for a number of different reasons including, but not limited to:

  • Physical, sexual abuse and emotional neglect;
  • Accidental/non-accidental exposure to sexually explicit material such as internet pornography or other forms of pornography
  • Exposure to sexual activities between adults
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Loss or experience of other traumatic events

Most sexual behaviours exhibited by children and younger people will „settle” into a normative development range. The challenges is to identify sexual behaviours that fall outside this range and decide whether or not those behaviours indicate violence.

The following is information taken from a chart created by Simon Hackett in 2010, found in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) UK study specifically on sexual behaviour:

Framework for harmful sexual behaviour:


  • Expected in terms of development;
  • Socially acceptable;
  • Consensual, reciprocal;
  • Joint decision-making process.


  • Singular situations of inappropriate behaviours
  • Socially acceptable behaviours in the youth group
  • Context of behaviour may be inappropriate
  • Generally consensual and reciprocal


  • Problematic and worrying behaviour
  • Unusual in terms of development and socially unexpected
  • No obvious elements of victimization
  • The issue of consent may be unclear;
  • Possible lack of reciprocity or equality of power
  • May include levels of compulsivity


  • Intention or result of victimisation;
  • Includes abuse of force;
  • Coercion and force to secure compliance of victims;
  • Intrusive;
  • Lack of informed consent or inability of victim to freely express consent;
  • May include elements of expressive violence.


  • Physically violent sexual abuse;
  • Very intrusive;
  • Instrumental violence that is psychologically and/or sexually inflicted on the perpetrator;