Active Research

Differentiating adverse childhood experience profiles of male youths who exhibit harmful sexual behaviours

    • Understanding child sexual abuse
    • Prevention of child sexual abuse
    • Response to child sexual abuse
Research Topic areas 
  • Drivers of child sexual abuse
  • Harmful sexual behaviours
  • Intersection with other violence/victimisation
  • Justice & legal responses
  • Prevalence
  • Therapeutic responses
Project Duration
Start: July 2023
End: November 2024
Geographical Scope
Offenders/those engaging in child sexual abuse
Children (6-12 years)Adolescents (13-17 years)Young adults (18-25 years)

Project Lead

Dr Lisa Thomsen, Griffith University

Project Team

Professor John Rynne, Griffith Youth Forensic Service, Griffith University
Dr James Ogilvie, Griffith Criminology Institute


Youths that exhibit harmful sexual behaviours are a diverse population, with a broad range of offence types, victim characteristics and modus operandi. While adverse childhood experiences are prevalent in the developmental histories of youths that sexually harm, greater knowledge of the differential influence of childhood abuse, neglect, maltreatment and other adversity is needed.


This project aims to further understanding of relationships between adverse childhood experiences and harmful sexual behaviours for male youth by exploring the ways in which experiences co-occur, and examining differences in patterns of co-occurrence in order to identify typologies of youths that sexually harm.


This quantitative study will utilise two sources of data on male youths who have exhibited harmful sexual behaviours – a Youth Justice administrative dataset on 427 youths convicted for sexual harm, and data extracted from clinical case files of 370 young males receiving services from a specialised treatment program for youths engaging in harmful sexual behaviours.

Significance and Dissemination

Identifying typologies of youths that exhibit harmful sexual behaviours will provide greater understanding of the aetiology of sexual harm perpetration, thereby informing policy and practice decisions, and allowing intervention strategies to be tailored to the specific needs of young people, with the ultimate goal of preventing sexual harm.

Further Details

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Funding body:
The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse
Funding budget:
$105,283 grant
Monitoring and governance:
This project is guided by oversight of the Project Advisory Group
Australian Human Research Ethics Committee:
This project is subject to ethical oversight by the Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee
Response to child sexual abuse

Evaluation of the Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team

James Herbert
Centre for Social Impact - University of South Australia
David O'Shaughnessy
University of Western Australia
Understanding child sexual abuse

Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)

Jonah Rimer
The University of Queensland
Response to child sexual abuse

Effect of multi-agency deliberation on perceptions of risk in responses to child abuse and neglect

James Herbert
Centre for Social Impact - UWA

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