Sexual exploitation of boys and young men: an exploratory study

This exploratory study will use existing sources of data to try and better understand how boys’ and young men’s experiences of child sexual exploitation may be different from those of girls and young women. 

Child sexual exploitation is a major child protection issue in the UK. To date, research has primarily focused on female victims. although evidence suggests that around one in five victims are boys.

The researchers will look at:

  • Patterns of victimisation – how perpetrators target male victims of child sexual exploitation
  • Which boys and young men are sexually exploited, and whether this is different from girls
  • What services are currently available to meet the needs of sexually exploited boys

There are four components to the study:

  1. A rapid evidence assessment of the existing research and evidence on sexual exploitation of boys and young men.
  2. Quantitative analysis of the Barnado’s database, the largest UK dataset of child sexual exploitation victims.
  3. In-depth interviews with 40 professionals who have expertise in working with male victims.
  4. Workshops with young people who have experienced sexual exploitation and with professional stakeholders.

A final report will be available in June 2014.

The study will provide some of the first guidance for policy-makers and practitioners on how to identify and support boys and young men who are sexually exploited. It will also highlight gaps in knowledge, and lay the foundation for the development of future research in this area.

The study is being undertaken by a consortium of researchers from NatCen, University College London's Department of Security and Crime Science, and Barnardo's

Project details



Dr Carol McNaughton Nicholls, NatCen

Funding programme

Children and Families

Grant amount and duration


September 2013 - June 2014


The findings are on the NatCen website.