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Social workers’ use of heuristics in risk assessment and decision making in cases involving sibling sexual abuse

Yates, Peter


Peter Yates


Ellids Kristensen

Reinhard Eher

Douglas Boer


Between 1/3 and 1/2 of sexual abuse perpetrated by children and young people involves siblings as victims. The currently available risk assessment tools give this little consideration, and by offering only broad indications of the likelihood of re-offending provide little guidance on the particular risks that may be posed to individual children. Sibling sexual abuse raises difficult decisions for practitioners regarding whether or not siblings can remain living together following the abuse becoming known, practice guidance on this issue being contradictory. In this context, selected findings will be presented from a grounded theory study conducted in Scotland of 21 social workers’ accounts of their decision making regarding 54 children involved in sibling sexual behaviour. Decisions regarding siblings’ living arrangements could be distilled down to a few key heuristics, underpinned by a particular set of frames, which tended to have the effect of discouraging consideration of the impact of the sibling sexual behaviour upon the victim; of apportioning influence to the worker’s relationship with the parent rather than an assessment of their capacity to protect their children; and to a judgement of the character of the perpetrator rather than an assessment of risk. The presentation will conclude with recommendations for practice.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (published)
Conference Name 14th Conference of the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders (IATSO)
Start Date Sep 7, 2016
End Date Dec 10, 2016
Acceptance Date May 29, 2016
Publication Date Sep 7, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 14, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 14, 2016
Journal Forensische Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie
Print ISSN 0945-2540
Publisher Pabst Science Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue Supp 1
Pages 164
ISBN 0945-2540
Keywords Child protection, sibling sexual abuse, children with harmful sexual behaviour, decision making,
Public URL
Contract Date Dec 14, 2016


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