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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Simon Hackett

Masson, H., Hackett, S., Phillips, J. & Balfe, M. (2015). Developmental markers of risk or vulnerability? Young females who sexually abuse: characteristics, backgrounds, behaviours and outcomes. Child and Family Social Work 20(1): 19-29.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper presents findings from a subsample of 24 young females aged 8–16 years who were referred to specialist services in England during the 1990s because of their abusive sexual behaviours. The characteristics, backgrounds and behaviours of the sample are summarized and compared both with the males in the total population studied and with findings from the limited international literature on young female sexual abusers. Key findings include the higher rates of sexual victimization amongst females, their lack of prior criminal convictions, their somewhat younger ages at referral and their fewer victims. A smaller selection of case studies is used to illustrate the range of circumstances and behaviours leading to referral. Follow-up interviews with two female ex service users, who are now in young adulthood, indicate that their childhood sexually abusive behaviour is more a marker of vulnerability than of risk of abusive behaviour in adulthood. Their struggles now as parents, in adult relationships and their ongoing health difficulties are outlined.