Masson, Helen (2000) Children and young people who sexually abuse : a study of a decade of growing recognition and uncertain development. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

Children and young people who sexually abuse others have emerged as a problem
since the early 1990s in the UK. This thesis attempts to provide a reflexive account
and analysis of developments in policy, procedures and services in England during the
past decade. It is based on empirical research undertaken primarily during the period
1994-1996 but complemented by analysis of available information drawn from the
early 1990s and post 1996.

Based on the premise that the problem of children and young people who sexually
abuse is both a `real' and a socially constructed phenomenon, my research strategy
was exploratory and descriptive in nature. The research began with the analysis of
documents which, in the early 1990s, comprised the only official and semi-official
guidance for welfare professionals on how to respond to children and young people
who sexually abuse others. In the context of this guidance developments in policy,
procedures and services in 106 local Area Child Protection Committee areas (ACPCs)
in England, in respect of young sexual abusers, were then researched using a variety
of data collections methods. These included documentary analysis of ACPC annual
reports and inter-agency guidance, telephone and face-to-face interviews with
individual professionals and welfare agency representatives, and a national survey by
questionnaire of professionals involved in this area of work.

The findings from the research indicate that the problem of children and young people
who sexually abuse is characterised by much complexity and continuing uncertainty,
with uneven, varying and often minimal developments in policy, procedure and
services across ACPC areas. A child protection discourse about the nature of the
problem and how young sexual abusers should be managed and responded to, which
was identified during the research, emerges as contested and problematic, with
professionals and agencies struggling with both lacks in resources and more
fundamental philosophical, conceptual and procedural dilemmas. It is argued in the
thesis that this complexity and uncertainty can be more fully understood only when
reference is made to wider theoretical debates about the nature of childhood and
childhood sexuality and with reference to shifting policies and legislation in respect of
child welfare and youth crime.

The thesis concludes by assessing the strengths and limitations of the study and
suggesting directions for future research. In addition, some final reflection is offered
on how, over time, my role as researcher became somewhat modified as a result of the
work I undertook. Specifically, having conducted research into an aspect of study in
relation to young sexual abusers hitherto virtually unexplored in England, I found that
I was being called on to make various contributions to the shaping of future policy
and procedure.

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