When a child’s sexual behaviors go beyond what is typical for their age and development, they’re exhibiting problematic sexual behavior (PSB).
Our Children Advocacy Centers (CACs) and the National Children’s Alliance collected data revealing that:
- Annually, Massachusetts has 1,800 PSB cases1
- Roughly 400 of cases seen at CACs include under children 18 acting out sexually against another child, and
- Approximately a quarter of sexual assaults are juvenile to juvenile scenarios.2
Children with PSB may pose a risk to the safety and well-being of themselves or others. Common factors for children displaying PSBs include physical abuse, bullying, and witnessing domestic violence or violence in their community. Based on most recent research and evaluation, we now know that these children are in need of services and show great response to appropriate therapeutic interventions rather than a criminal justice response.
How MACA is Helping
In July 2020, we started a new pilot program leading statewide awareness and interventions for children showing PSBs.
Ninety-eight percent of children and youth with PSBs who receive early and effective interventions don’t reoffend and instead grow into healthy adults3 4. These interventions involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is rooted in the idea that how you think, feel, and act is all interconnected, and that you can manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.5
PSB-CBT is evidence-based and highly effective for children ages 7-12 with PSBs and their caregivers. It can eliminate PSBs, encourage prosocial behavior, and enhance parenting skills.
We trained 25 clinicians in PSB-CBT from six CACs and their mental health partners. We also educated more than 2,500 mental health professionals, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and community members on PSB and the services available.
Twenty-five children began or completed PSB-CBT within the first six months of our program. With the help of Principal Investigator Ryan Shields, Ph.D. of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, we are assessing the program’s outcomes and effectiveness, while identifying gaps and barriers to services.
We are continuing to expand on our work with the latest trainings, addressing multiple topics surrounding PSB, including dispelling common myths, improving assessments, and implementing trauma-focused CBT with trauma-related PSB.
Together, we can continue to drive positive change.