Comparison of children's advocacy center responses to harmful sexual behavior among siblings: An international perspective

Erin K. Taylor, Dafna Tener, Jane F. Silovsky, Abbie Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Harmful sexual behavior (HSB) is sexual behavior exhibited by children and adolescents that is developmentally inappropriate and/or harmful or abusive towards themselves or others. Victims of children with HSB are commonly siblings. Multiple professionals may be involved in cases of youth HSB involving siblings, which places Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) in a key position to directly address intrafamilial HSB. Approximately 25% of all cases seen at CACs in the U.S. are youth-initiated HSB. However, no known research has examined how CAC professionals approach decision-making and response to intrafamilial and sibling HSB, particularly across regions and cultures. Objectives: To examine the perspectives of professionals from three separate CACs in Israel, eastern U.S., and southwestern U.S. regarding their decision-making and response process for sibling HSB. Participants and setting: Thirty-seven multidisciplinary team members from the three CACs, including representatives from child welfare, law enforcement, family advocacy, mental health, and the court system, among others, participated in the study. Methods: Participants completed focus groups that asked them to discuss how their system would respond to a vignette case. Dedoose was used for thematic analysis. Results: Using qualitative thematic analysis, results indicate all sites perceived sibling HSB as a family crisis, and they prioritized establishing safety and providing therapeutic interventions. Differences across sites were on how to establish safety and when to use legal actions. Conclusions: The study draws attention to the influences that formal policy and community contexts have on CAC decision-making, particularly around the availability of evidence-based treatments and caregiver engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105371
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Children's Advocacy Centers
  • Cross-cultural comparison
  • Harmful sexual behavior
  • Multidisciplinary team
  • Problematic sexual behavior
  • Sibling sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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