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Assessment of Sexual Behavior Problems in Children

The initial goal of the Assessment of Sexual Behavior Problems in Children (ASBPC) is to gain an understanding of children’s unique functioning, identify problem areas, rule clinical symptoms in or out, understand children’s perceptions of their important relationships, and subsequently develop recommendations that meet the specific needs of children and their families. Many children referred for a sexual behavior problem do not have sexual abuse histories but may have a history of trauma, other developmental concerns, and/or exposure to sexual material on the internet. The assessment helps guide and prioritize the treatment focus, including the needs of parents and siblings to both ensure safety and promote long-term recovery from the issue that led to the current behaviors. 

The ASBPC consists of meeting individually with young and school-age children (ages 4-12) and allowing them to become comfortable with the setting and therapist. Assessments can last from four to six individual 50-minute sessions. Initially, clinicians do not ask children direct questions about their problem sexual behaviors. Instead, clinicians utilize a nondirective approach to gain an understanding of the child’s overall functioning with particular attention to ways in which their sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors compare to their same-age peers.

Clinicians encourage children to externalize their thoughts, perceptions, and feelings by providing them with a variety of ways to symbolize and/or verbalize their sexual experiences and behaviors.  Clinicians are trained to identify thematic material in children’s play that might suggest their underlying concerns.


For children referred for Boundary Project (family-focused treatment of sexual behavior problems in children under the age of 12 years), the ASBPC is recommended in order to help determine whether Boundary Project's structured program is a good fit for the child and his/her family at the time of the referral.

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