Last updated: 30 August 2023

Next review: 30 August 2024

Problematic and harmful sexual behaviour can involve one or more children engaging in sexual discussions or acts that are inappropriate for their age or stage of development. These can range from using sexually explicit words and phrases to full penetrative sex with other children or adults.

Sexual behaviour between children is considered harmful if the child is being pressured or threatened or if one of the children is older. When establishing if a child’s sexual behaviour is harmful, we must not only take their age into account but also their physical, intellectual and emotional development.

Sexually harmful behaviours are likely to include elements of:

  • pressure
  • secrecy
  • power imbalance possibly involving significant difference in age and developmental factors
  • degradation and threats
  • compulsive behaviours
  • age inappropriate knowledge or experience
  • use of bribes, gifts and removal of inhibitors, for instance through the use of drugs or alcohol