Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
Up-to-date information on how we are responding to COVID-19
Stay informed

Risk factors for sexually reactive behaviours occurring in care

Children in care are significantly more likely to have been sexually abused and more likely to display sexually reactive behaviours at some point in their lives, particularly those in residential care.

The New South Wales Office of the Senior Practitioner Child Sexual Abuse Literature Review reports that approximately 50 per cent of sexual abuse towards children in care is perpetrated by other children. The literature review also found that girls in care were three times more likely to be sexually abused by their peers than boys were, and their abuse was of the most severe type.

Children in care are likely to have been exposed to a number of risk factors linked to SRB over a prolonged period of time. These risk factors include abuse and neglect, developmental trauma and exposure to domestic and family violence.

These risk factors can be particularly compounded by living in residential care, an environment that may:

  • provide very little privacy, particularly around showering, toileting, dressing and sleeping
  • ritualise sexually reactive acts, for example, initiation ceremonies involving sexually reactive behaviours
  • place children in a living environment with other children who display SRB and who respond to their peers in sexual ways
  • limit opportunities for close connections to adult role models. For example, children are generally exposed to rotating adult staff members who are supervising a number of children and may not be able to develop close and connected relationships with one child
  • limit opportunities for positive social support systems. For example, supportive family and extended family, supportive community members (teachers, youth workers) and participation in extracurricular activities
  • expose the child (with SRB) to homelessness and instability. For example, changes in school and neighbourhood as a result of coming into care or multiple care arrangements, or frequent suspensions and exclusions from school
  • limit the amount of contact the child (with SRB) has with well-functioning peers. They may have decreased engagement with children who are engaged in positive activities, have strong mental health and who are strongly connected to positive social support systems.

Version history

Back to top

Published on:

Last reviewed:

  • Date: 
    Page created
  • Date: 
    Page created