The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) sought to find ways to improve outcomes for children exhibiting sexual behavior problems. It commissioned a yearlong study, just recently published, that drew from previous work on this subject, personal stories and interviews with professionals working with children. Key findings:

• Most children who are sexually abused do not develop adult sexual behavior problems.

• Most adult offenders do not report having had childhood sexual behavior problems.

• When children receive appropriate treatment, they are at no greater risk than the general population to become adult sex offenders.

• Children should be treated as children first, and not stigmatized as “sex offenders.”

• Child-care professionals and others who work with children should be offered training in how to recognize and respond to such behaviors to get the child back on a healthy track.

When should parents worry?

Parents should be concerned when their child’s sexual acts or behaviors have one or more of the following characteristics:

• Occur frequently, not just once in a while.

• Take place between children of widely differing ages (such as a 12-year-old who acts out with a 4-year-old) or between children of different abilities.

• Are initiated with strong, upset feelings, such as anger or anxiety.

• Cause harm or potential harm (physical or emotional) to any child.

• The child doesn’t respond to typical parenting strategies (such as discipline).

• The acts involve coercion, force or aggression of any kind.

Source: National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth