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Harmful sexual behaviour among children and adolescents: Prevention strategies and proposals for interventions

Oddfrid Skorpe Tennfjord


Problematic and harmful sexual behaviour among children and adolescent is not rare. It is estimated that among 20-30 % of sexual assault is committed by a person under 18 years (Barbaree & Marshall, 2008), and about 50 % of adult sexual offenders report deviant sexual interests in adolescence (Finkelhor, Omrod and Chaffin, 2009).
Why children and adolescents show problematic and harmful sexual behavour will however, vary. Studies often look into individual characteristics e.g. developmental problems, traumatization and learning disabilities (Hackett, 2014; Sandvik, Nesset, Berg og Søndenaa, 2017; JanusCentret 2021). Cultural and more community based approaches are more scarce.

This presentation will shed light to understand the link between causes of problematic and harmful sexual behaviour and different prevention strategies, in order to promote healthy sexual behaviour, or «sexual decency», in children and adolescents. The presentation will include an overview of different tools developed in the recent years to enhance healthy sexual behaviour. More targeted interventions where children and adolescents have shown problematic or harmful sexual behaviour, will also be offered.

Oddfrid Skorpe Tennfjord, clinical psychologist, phd. Tennfjord works at The regional center on violence, traumatic stress and suicide prevention, Region Mid-Norway (RVTS Midt). From 2015- 2021 she also worked as an Associate Professor at the Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Tennfjord is the head of the Norwegian Competence Network of children and adolescents displaying problematic or harmful sexual behaviour as well as REBESSA (Resource team children and adolescents with problematic and harmful sexual behaviour). Tennfjord is also project manager of the web site www.seksuellatferd.no