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Working with adolescents who display sexually harmful behaviour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Helena Russell, Joel Harvey

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Children's Services
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Apr 2016

King's Authors


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the psychosocial experience of staff in a UK youth offending team (YOT) who work with adolescents displaying sexually harmful behaviour (SHB). Design/methodology/approach - Eight participants were questioned by means of a semi-structured interview schedule about their experiences of working with adolescents displaying SHB. Subsequent data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Findings - Three superordinate themes were identified: client-focused; challenges within the role; and looking after the self. Staff appreciate the factors contributing to SHB and they experience challenges within their role, but are also aware of the importance of maintaining their own well-being. They demonstrate positive attitudes towards young people displaying SHB, whilst contending with the challenge of misconceptions within society. When addressing the self, YOT practitioners are able to adopt both individual and group methods of coping with the nature of the work. Research limitations/implications - The participant group could have included a wider range of disciplines as the YOT is a multi-agency service. A further study exploring staff from different professional backgrounds would be of value. Practical implications - The findings will be valuable for both practitioners and policy makers working in the field of youth justice as they offer a unique insight into the role of youth justice staff and the complexities within their role when working with a group of young people often vulnerable to poor outcomes. It is important for practitioners and managers to be able to reflect on the challenges in the role in order for clinical supervision to be emphasised when working with this client group. Originality/value - To the authors' knowledge this is the first study to provide an in-depth exploration of the experience of UK YOT officers working with adolescents who have displayed SHB.

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