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Harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people: NICE guideline 2016
  1. Emily Garrett,
  2. Ailbhe Doherty,
  3. Gayle Hann
  1. Department of Paediatrics, North Middlesex University Hospital London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gayle Hann, Department of Paediatrics, North Middlesex University Hospital London, Sterling Way, London N181QX, UK; gayle.hann{at}

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Information about current guideline

In September 2016, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published their first guideline on ‘harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people’.1 The aim of this document was to enable the safe and appropriate management of children and young people presenting with harmful sexual behaviour. This includes the identification of such children and young people, the seriousness of their behaviour and the risk posed to themselves, the appropriate referral pathway, and interventions to prevent escalation.

This guideline addresses the following points:

  1. The importance of multiagency approaches in identifying and helping children and young people whose sexual behaviour indicates the need for assessment.

  2. The utilisation of different models or tools to assess the seriousness of and degree of risk posed by harmful sexual behaviour to children and young people.

  3. The range of interventions available when children and young people display harmful sexual behaviour.

  4. Emphasis on management based on best evidence, given current gaps and room for further research and expansion of the existing evidence base, particularly around the impact of social media on harmful sexual behaviour.

Harmful sexual behaviour is defined as ‘one or more children engaging in sexual discussions or acts that are inappropriate for their age or stage of development’.2 This definition is broad and can include the use of adult sexually explicit words and phrases, sending sexual images or verbal messages using online or mobile communication devices, viewing pornography inappropriate for developmental age, or engaging in sexual activities including full penetrative sex with other children or adults. This is an umbrella term, and can incorporate sexual abuse, which involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual behaviours, which they may or may not be aware of, and which may or may not be violent.3 This can …

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  • AD and GH contributed equally.

  • Contributors EG and AD are joint first authors of this article, drafting and reviewing it equally. GH provided expert advice and support throughout.

  • Competing interests None declared

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.