Case studies

The Role of 'Grooming' in Interventions for Harmful Sexual Behaviour/Child Sexual Exploitation

Dr Anne-Marie McAlinden
Reader, School of Law

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Professor Anne-Marie McAlinden’s body of research on grooming began with a 2006 article published in Social and Legal Studies which was one of the first academic articles in this field (McAlinden, 2006). (According to Google Scholar, this has been cited 86 times to date). 

More recently, this research has incorporated a comprehensive empirical research study across four jurisdictions (over 50 in-depth interviews with professionals in the fields of sex offender assessment, treatment and management and victim intervention and support across Northern Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland) and  has produced multiple, influential research insights on the nature and complexity of grooming, the continuity of harm into intervention and therapeutic services and the ways in which they should be addressed in work with children and young people.

An understanding of grooming and how this can impact on victims, is central to both therapeutic work with victims and in helping them move on from and come to terms with their victimhood. 

A key aspect of the research was the formulation of a new and expansive definition of grooming incorporating, for the first time, all aspects of grooming including on the internet, within families and organisations and among peers: ‘‘the use of a variety of manipulative and controlling techniques (2) with a vulnerable subject (3) in a range of inter-personal and social settings (4) in order to establish trust or normalise sexually harmful behaviour (5) with the overall aim of facilitating exploitation and/or prohibiting exposure’ (McAlinden, 2012: 11).

Professor McAlinden’s definition of grooming has now been used to train facilitators and those who work with children and young people directly in therapeutic sessions. It has also been used to inform practice in the service provision to children and young people.

The research aims to improve the quality of life, and health of these children and young people. Professor McAlinden’s research is paramount to the promotion of social awareness of the grooming process.

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