Report of the ATSA task force on children with sexual behavior problems

Mark Chaffin, Lucy Berliner, Richard Block, Toni Cavanagh Johnson, William N. Friedrich, Diana Garza Louis, Thomas D. Lyon, Ina Page, David S. Prescott, Jane F. Silovsky, Christi Madden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) Task Force on Children With Sexual Behavior Problems was formed by the ATSA Board of Directors as part of ATSA's overall mission of promoting effective intervention and management practices for individuals who have engaged in abusive sexual behavior. The task force was charged to produce a report intended to guide professional practices with children, ages 12 and younger. Specifically, the task force was asked to address how assessment should be linked to intervention activities, what intervention models or components are most effective, and the role of family involvement in intervention. The task force also addressed a number of scientific and public policy issues concerning children with sexual behavior problems (SBP). The task force report begins with an introductory section that offers a working definition of children with SBP, reviews existing theory models about the etiology of SBP, and reviews the overlap of SBP with other problems. Research on population subtypes and the relationship of SBP to early sexual abuse and other risk factors is reviewed. Next, the report suggests principles for conducting good clinical assessment of children with SBP, including the role and timing of clinical assessment, the need to take a broad ecological assessment perspective, suggested assessment components and tools, and specific assessment issues. This includes the extent to which assessment of past sexual abuse history needs to be explored when children present with SBP. The Treatment section of the report begins with a review of the treatment outcome research literature. The body of controlled treatment studies is small but does allow identification of better supported treatment models. A range of treatment issues is addressed, including the role of parents and/or caregivers in treatment and considerations for selecting between group, individual, or other treatment modes. Suggestions are offered for specific treatment components and how these treatment components may be integrated into an overall intervention where there are multiple treatment foci. The Public Policy section of the report begins by articulating an overarching framework for policy decisions about the subset of more serious or victimizing childhood SBP and offers suggestions for specific policy areas, such as registration and notification, mandatory child abuse reporting practices, policies about removal of children from their homes, policies about segregated versus general placement settings, policies about information sharing, and policies about interagency collaboration. Specific suggestions about removal and placement decisions are offered, with the intent of valuing the needs and rights of other children in the home or community, as well as the welfare of the child with SBP. The positions articulated by the report are intended to serve as suggested practices and recommendations. The task force strived to ground these recommendations in the best available scientific research, general good-practice principles, and accepted ethical codes. As with any task force report, we believe the suggestions and recommendations in the report should be given due consideration by practitioners and policy makers, but they should not be confused with formal practice standards. Highlights from the report include the following: Childhood SBP can range widely in their degree of severity and potential harm to other children. Although some features are common, virtually no characteristic is universal, and there is no profile or constellation of factors characterizing these children. Given the diversity of children with SBP, most intervention decisions-including decisions about removal, placement, notifying others, reporting, legal adjudication, and restrictions on contact with other children-should be made carefully and on a caseby-case basis. Because children and their circumstances can change rapidly, decisions should be reviewed and revised regularly. Despite considerable concern about progression onto later adolescent and adult sexual offending, the available evidence suggests that children with SBP are at very low risk to commit future sex offenses if provided with appropriate treatment. After receiving appropriate short-term outpatient treatment, children with SBP have been found to be at no greater long-term risk for committing future sex offenses than other child clinical populations (2%-3%). Children with SBP may be at equal or greater risk for becoming future sexual abuse victims as sexual abuse perpetrators. On the whole, children with SBP appear to respond well and quickly to treatment, especially basic cognitive-behavioral or psychoeducational interventions that also involve parents and/or caregivers. Intensive and restrictive treatments for SBP appear to be required only occasionally or rarely. Children with SBP are qualitatively different from adult sex offenders. This appears to be a different population, not simply a younger version of adult sex offenders. Public policies, assessment procedures, and most treatment approaches developed for adult sex offenders are inappropriate for these children. Policies placing children on public sex offender registries or segregating children with SBT may offer little or no actual community protection while subjecting children to potential stigma and social disadvantage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-218
Number of pages20
JournalChild Maltreatment
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2008

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Advisory Committees
Sexual Behavior
Sex Offenses
Therapeutics
Public Policy
Caregivers
Parents
Mandatory Reporting
Social Stigma
Population
Codes of Ethics

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this

Chaffin, M., Berliner, L., Block, R., Johnson, T. C., Friedrich, W. N., Louis, D. G., ... Madden, C. (2008). Report of the ATSA task force on children with sexual behavior problems. Child Maltreatment, 13(2), 199-218. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077559507306718

Report of the ATSA task force on children with sexual behavior problems. / Chaffin, Mark; Berliner, Lucy; Block, Richard; Johnson, Toni Cavanagh; Friedrich, William N.; Louis, Diana Garza; Lyon, Thomas D.; Page, Ina; Prescott, David S.; Silovsky, Jane F.; Madden, Christi.

In: Child Maltreatment, Vol. 13, No. 2, 01.05.2008, p. 199-218.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Chaffin, M, Berliner, L, Block, R, Johnson, TC, Friedrich, WN, Louis, DG, Lyon, TD, Page, I, Prescott, DS, Silovsky, JF & Madden, C 2008, 'Report of the ATSA task force on children with sexual behavior problems', Child Maltreatment, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 199-218. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077559507306718
Chaffin M, Berliner L, Block R, Johnson TC, Friedrich WN, Louis DG et al. Report of the ATSA task force on children with sexual behavior problems. Child Maltreatment. 2008 May 1;13(2):199-218. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077559507306718
Chaffin, Mark ; Berliner, Lucy ; Block, Richard ; Johnson, Toni Cavanagh ; Friedrich, William N. ; Louis, Diana Garza ; Lyon, Thomas D. ; Page, Ina ; Prescott, David S. ; Silovsky, Jane F. ; Madden, Christi. / Report of the ATSA task force on children with sexual behavior problems. In: Child Maltreatment. 2008 ; Vol. 13, No. 2. pp. 199-218.
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abstract = "The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) Task Force on Children With Sexual Behavior Problems was formed by the ATSA Board of Directors as part of ATSA's overall mission of promoting effective intervention and management practices for individuals who have engaged in abusive sexual behavior. The task force was charged to produce a report intended to guide professional practices with children, ages 12 and younger. Specifically, the task force was asked to address how assessment should be linked to intervention activities, what intervention models or components are most effective, and the role of family involvement in intervention. The task force also addressed a number of scientific and public policy issues concerning children with sexual behavior problems (SBP). The task force report begins with an introductory section that offers a working definition of children with SBP, reviews existing theory models about the etiology of SBP, and reviews the overlap of SBP with other problems. Research on population subtypes and the relationship of SBP to early sexual abuse and other risk factors is reviewed. Next, the report suggests principles for conducting good clinical assessment of children with SBP, including the role and timing of clinical assessment, the need to take a broad ecological assessment perspective, suggested assessment components and tools, and specific assessment issues. This includes the extent to which assessment of past sexual abuse history needs to be explored when children present with SBP. The Treatment section of the report begins with a review of the treatment outcome research literature. The body of controlled treatment studies is small but does allow identification of better supported treatment models. A range of treatment issues is addressed, including the role of parents and/or caregivers in treatment and considerations for selecting between group, individual, or other treatment modes. Suggestions are offered for specific treatment components and how these treatment components may be integrated into an overall intervention where there are multiple treatment foci. The Public Policy section of the report begins by articulating an overarching framework for policy decisions about the subset of more serious or victimizing childhood SBP and offers suggestions for specific policy areas, such as registration and notification, mandatory child abuse reporting practices, policies about removal of children from their homes, policies about segregated versus general placement settings, policies about information sharing, and policies about interagency collaboration. Specific suggestions about removal and placement decisions are offered, with the intent of valuing the needs and rights of other children in the home or community, as well as the welfare of the child with SBP. The positions articulated by the report are intended to serve as suggested practices and recommendations. The task force strived to ground these recommendations in the best available scientific research, general good-practice principles, and accepted ethical codes. As with any task force report, we believe the suggestions and recommendations in the report should be given due consideration by practitioners and policy makers, but they should not be confused with formal practice standards. Highlights from the report include the following: Childhood SBP can range widely in their degree of severity and potential harm to other children. Although some features are common, virtually no characteristic is universal, and there is no profile or constellation of factors characterizing these children. Given the diversity of children with SBP, most intervention decisions-including decisions about removal, placement, notifying others, reporting, legal adjudication, and restrictions on contact with other children-should be made carefully and on a caseby-case basis. Because children and their circumstances can change rapidly, decisions should be reviewed and revised regularly. Despite considerable concern about progression onto later adolescent and adult sexual offending, the available evidence suggests that children with SBP are at very low risk to commit future sex offenses if provided with appropriate treatment. After receiving appropriate short-term outpatient treatment, children with SBP have been found to be at no greater long-term risk for committing future sex offenses than other child clinical populations (2{\%}-3{\%}). Children with SBP may be at equal or greater risk for becoming future sexual abuse victims as sexual abuse perpetrators. On the whole, children with SBP appear to respond well and quickly to treatment, especially basic cognitive-behavioral or psychoeducational interventions that also involve parents and/or caregivers. Intensive and restrictive treatments for SBP appear to be required only occasionally or rarely. Children with SBP are qualitatively different from adult sex offenders. This appears to be a different population, not simply a younger version of adult sex offenders. Public policies, assessment procedures, and most treatment approaches developed for adult sex offenders are inappropriate for these children. Policies placing children on public sex offender registries or segregating children with SBT may offer little or no actual community protection while subjecting children to potential stigma and social disadvantage.",
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The task force report begins with an introductory section that offers a working definition of children with SBP, reviews existing theory models about the etiology of SBP, and reviews the overlap of SBP with other problems. Research on population subtypes and the relationship of SBP to early sexual abuse and other risk factors is reviewed. Next, the report suggests principles for conducting good clinical assessment of children with SBP, including the role and timing of clinical assessment, the need to take a broad ecological assessment perspective, suggested assessment components and tools, and specific assessment issues. This includes the extent to which assessment of past sexual abuse history needs to be explored when children present with SBP. The Treatment section of the report begins with a review of the treatment outcome research literature. The body of controlled treatment studies is small but does allow identification of better supported treatment models. A range of treatment issues is addressed, including the role of parents and/or caregivers in treatment and considerations for selecting between group, individual, or other treatment modes. Suggestions are offered for specific treatment components and how these treatment components may be integrated into an overall intervention where there are multiple treatment foci. The Public Policy section of the report begins by articulating an overarching framework for policy decisions about the subset of more serious or victimizing childhood SBP and offers suggestions for specific policy areas, such as registration and notification, mandatory child abuse reporting practices, policies about removal of children from their homes, policies about segregated versus general placement settings, policies about information sharing, and policies about interagency collaboration. Specific suggestions about removal and placement decisions are offered, with the intent of valuing the needs and rights of other children in the home or community, as well as the welfare of the child with SBP. The positions articulated by the report are intended to serve as suggested practices and recommendations. The task force strived to ground these recommendations in the best available scientific research, general good-practice principles, and accepted ethical codes. As with any task force report, we believe the suggestions and recommendations in the report should be given due consideration by practitioners and policy makers, but they should not be confused with formal practice standards. Highlights from the report include the following: Childhood SBP can range widely in their degree of severity and potential harm to other children. Although some features are common, virtually no characteristic is universal, and there is no profile or constellation of factors characterizing these children. Given the diversity of children with SBP, most intervention decisions-including decisions about removal, placement, notifying others, reporting, legal adjudication, and restrictions on contact with other children-should be made carefully and on a caseby-case basis. Because children and their circumstances can change rapidly, decisions should be reviewed and revised regularly. Despite considerable concern about progression onto later adolescent and adult sexual offending, the available evidence suggests that children with SBP are at very low risk to commit future sex offenses if provided with appropriate treatment. After receiving appropriate short-term outpatient treatment, children with SBP have been found to be at no greater long-term risk for committing future sex offenses than other child clinical populations (2%-3%). Children with SBP may be at equal or greater risk for becoming future sexual abuse victims as sexual abuse perpetrators. On the whole, children with SBP appear to respond well and quickly to treatment, especially basic cognitive-behavioral or psychoeducational interventions that also involve parents and/or caregivers. Intensive and restrictive treatments for SBP appear to be required only occasionally or rarely. Children with SBP are qualitatively different from adult sex offenders. This appears to be a different population, not simply a younger version of adult sex offenders. Public policies, assessment procedures, and most treatment approaches developed for adult sex offenders are inappropriate for these children. Policies placing children on public sex offender registries or segregating children with SBT may offer little or no actual community protection while subjecting children to potential stigma and social disadvantage.

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The task force report begins with an introductory section that offers a working definition of children with SBP, reviews existing theory models about the etiology of SBP, and reviews the overlap of SBP with other problems. Research on population subtypes and the relationship of SBP to early sexual abuse and other risk factors is reviewed. Next, the report suggests principles for conducting good clinical assessment of children with SBP, including the role and timing of clinical assessment, the need to take a broad ecological assessment perspective, suggested assessment components and tools, and specific assessment issues. This includes the extent to which assessment of past sexual abuse history needs to be explored when children present with SBP. The Treatment section of the report begins with a review of the treatment outcome research literature. The body of controlled treatment studies is small but does allow identification of better supported treatment models. A range of treatment issues is addressed, including the role of parents and/or caregivers in treatment and considerations for selecting between group, individual, or other treatment modes. Suggestions are offered for specific treatment components and how these treatment components may be integrated into an overall intervention where there are multiple treatment foci. The Public Policy section of the report begins by articulating an overarching framework for policy decisions about the subset of more serious or victimizing childhood SBP and offers suggestions for specific policy areas, such as registration and notification, mandatory child abuse reporting practices, policies about removal of children from their homes, policies about segregated versus general placement settings, policies about information sharing, and policies about interagency collaboration. Specific suggestions about removal and placement decisions are offered, with the intent of valuing the needs and rights of other children in the home or community, as well as the welfare of the child with SBP. The positions articulated by the report are intended to serve as suggested practices and recommendations. The task force strived to ground these recommendations in the best available scientific research, general good-practice principles, and accepted ethical codes. As with any task force report, we believe the suggestions and recommendations in the report should be given due consideration by practitioners and policy makers, but they should not be confused with formal practice standards. Highlights from the report include the following: Childhood SBP can range widely in their degree of severity and potential harm to other children. Although some features are common, virtually no characteristic is universal, and there is no profile or constellation of factors characterizing these children. Given the diversity of children with SBP, most intervention decisions-including decisions about removal, placement, notifying others, reporting, legal adjudication, and restrictions on contact with other children-should be made carefully and on a caseby-case basis. Because children and their circumstances can change rapidly, decisions should be reviewed and revised regularly. Despite considerable concern about progression onto later adolescent and adult sexual offending, the available evidence suggests that children with SBP are at very low risk to commit future sex offenses if provided with appropriate treatment. After receiving appropriate short-term outpatient treatment, children with SBP have been found to be at no greater long-term risk for committing future sex offenses than other child clinical populations (2%-3%). Children with SBP may be at equal or greater risk for becoming future sexual abuse victims as sexual abuse perpetrators. On the whole, children with SBP appear to respond well and quickly to treatment, especially basic cognitive-behavioral or psychoeducational interventions that also involve parents and/or caregivers. Intensive and restrictive treatments for SBP appear to be required only occasionally or rarely. Children with SBP are qualitatively different from adult sex offenders. This appears to be a different population, not simply a younger version of adult sex offenders. Public policies, assessment procedures, and most treatment approaches developed for adult sex offenders are inappropriate for these children. Policies placing children on public sex offender registries or segregating children with SBT may offer little or no actual community protection while subjecting children to potential stigma and social disadvantage.

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