How thoughts link to behaviour


Wellbeing and self-care

For wives and partners, parents, adult family members and friends of people who they suspect or know may be engaging in inappropriate behaviour involving children.

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Having sexual thoughts about children does not necessarily mean that the person having these thoughts only has a sexual interest in children. Many people who have a sexual attraction to children also have a sexual interest in others, including adults.

The impact of thoughts and fantasies

Having sexual thoughts or fantasies about children does not always mean that a person will act on those thoughts and harm a child. Some people recognise they have a sexual interest in children which they live with and manage and that never leads to inappropriate or illegal behaviour.

But sometimes sexual thoughts and fantasies about children do lead to inappropriate and or illegal activity which we refer to as child sexual abuse. This can include contact offences such as inappropriate touching and non-contact abuse which can include viewing sexual images of children.

Even people who never act on their sexual thoughts about children can be troubled by them. They may experience times when the thoughts are more powerful and harder to manage. Nevertheless, there are things they can do to control these thoughts so that they do not lead to inappropriate or illegal behaviour.

Terms such as ‘paedophilia’ are often used in the media and society to refer to any sexual interest in children, but this is not always correct. For further information about the different types of sexual attraction to children take a look at the ‘Understanding the terminology’ section.

Getting help and understanding more

Our self-help information and anonymous helpline can help people control their sexual thoughts and fantasies about children so that they do not lead to illegal behaviour. They can help people whether or not they have an exclusive sexual preference for children.

As a family member or friend of someone who has disclosed their sexual thoughts about children, it is important to recognise these differences and that thoughts do not inevitably lead to behaviour. For those of you who are in contact with someone who has been arrested for or been convicted of sexual offences involving children, it is similarly important to recognise that there are things they can do to control their thoughts, feelings and behaviour so that it does not happen again.

If you have any concerns, questions, or would just like to talk about what you are going through, our non-judgemental helpline advisors are here to support you. You can stay anonymous and don’t have to give your real name or any contact details. If you’re not ready to speak to anyone yet, you can also use our live chat or send a secure email.

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