What the behaviour is telling you

Children show their needs and wants through their behaviours. Understanding the reason behind a child’s sexual behaviour is important. When children or young people do not have the language, experience or ability to seek help, adults must look carefully at the behaviour to interpret it.

When sexual behaviours are identified as concerning or harmful, it is essential to think about why the child or young person is exhibiting the behaviour. Reviewing the behaviour and the way it happens will help you understand what is going on for the child and indicate what is needed.

Q1. What are the issues or concerns regarding the child or young person and their behaviour?

Q2. What might these concerns indicate?

  • lack of accurate sexuality information
  • boredom or loneliness
  • curiosity
  • sexual excitement
  • lack of social skills
  • medical needs
  • conflict in relationships
  • confusion about sexuality, relationships and sexual activities
  • lack of rules and consequences
  • lack of information about the risks of the behaviour
  • overexposure to explicit sexual activity and materials
  • lack of adult supervision and support
  • experience of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect
  • lack of consistency across environments
  • anxiety about adult or family relationships

Understanding the child or young person and the issues that may be contributing to the behaviour guides the planning of effective responses.

Expressing sexuality through sexual behaviour is natural, healthy and a basic aspect of being human. Sexual behaviour which makes children or young people vulnerable or causes harm to another requires adult intervention to provide support and protection.

All children and young people have the right to be safe.


Identify the behaviour
Respond to address the child's needs


This content originally published by Family Planning Queensland. © 2012 Family Planning Queensland. Reprinted with permission.