Dr Sophie King-Hill has received an ESRC New Investigator grant to lead a project seeking to understand what currently constitutes sexual behaviours – both online and offline – in children and young people aged 13-18 in the UK. 

The innovative project will explore both healthy and problematic sexual behaviours, including those that may be harmful, within the age group, with the aim to gain knowledge that will influence useful resources in the future. 

With recent reports of sexual harassment in schools coming to light, as well as reports that sexual harassment has become normalised in education settings, the timely research will seek to reduce the harmful sexual behaviours in children and young people, as well as support the education around healthy and expected sexual behaviour within the age group. 

The project is being carried out collaboratively with Brook (sexual health charity for young people) and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (a charity preventing child sexual abuse) and has the support of teaching unions. The outcomes of the research will allow for a picture to be formed of the sexual behaviours of children and young people – an under researched topic. 

Knowledge gained from the project will be used to develop an assessment tool that will allow for professionals to review sexual behaviours of those within the age group in a way that is led by contextual research. 

Speaking on the project, Sophie comments,

‘This project will provide valuable insight into this little researched area and go some way in enhancing sex and relationships education within schools. The findings will then go on to develop a UK-based assessment tool for professionals. This will contribute to keeping children and young people safe by supporting healthy sexual behaviours and providing clear intervention pathways for problematic and harmful sexual behaviours.’ 

Dr Sophie King-Hill is a Senior Fellow in the Health Services Management Centre. She has taught sex and relationships in schools across the West Midlands and was the National Impact Coordinator for a leading sexual health charity for children and young people. Currently Sophie is part of the National Rape Crisis England and Wales Sibling Sexual Abuse Project, and has written on rape culture in schools as well as assessing sexual behaviours in young people.