Developing a new risk and needs assessment tool for young people who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour


This project represents an exciting opportunity to develop a novel instrument for the assessment of risk and need in young people who have sexually harmed. The successful candidate will work together with academic supervisors and a partner in industry (G-map Services) who provides therapeutic services to children and young people who have displayed sexually harmful behaviours. The research will be conducted on campus at the University of Liverpool and at G-map premises in Manchester.

Sexual harm committed by children and young people remains an increasing problem in the UK. Estimates suggest that under 25% of intra-familial abuse, and up to 66% of all child sexual abuse, is perpetrated by under children under the age of 18 years. With two thirds of young people who display harmful sexual having experienced similar behaviours themselves, it is important that the safeguarding and welfare needs of these children are being met.

As part of this project, we will identify risk and protective factors in the literature on harmful sexual behaviours, develop a risk and needs assessment tool and novel coding schedule to code these factors from case files, and access retrospective re/offence data for a large cohort of case files that we have access to.

The development of a new risk and needs assessment tool will help to avoid under or over-representation of risk, ensure that cases can be appropriately identified and managed with appropriate service provision, and bring greater consideration to wider systemic and social factors.

By using an existing cohort of case files and accessing Police National Computer data on reoffences in this cohort, we will be able to establish the sensitivity and specificity of the tool that we will develop. We will work closely with the CASE partner, G-map services, to ensure the impact of this work, which will inform assessment and intervention practices, and local and national policy on children who have sexually harmed. The risk and needs assessment tool will be of direct benefit to the CASE partner and will be made available for use by other professionals working with children who have sexually harmed.

The proposed project will involve reading and coding highly sensitive material from case files of young people who have sexually harmed and managing highly sensitive data related to reoffence information. In completing this work, the successful candidate will receive support and clinical supervision from G-map.

The award is for a three year PhD studentship (start date as soon as reasonably possible), and includes:

•        Payment of academic fees, at the standard UKRI Home rate

•        An annual maintenance Stipend (£17,668 in 2022/23)

•        Reimbursement of research expenses via the Research Training Support Grant

·      Opportunities to apply for additional funding to support internships, fieldwork and overseas institutional visits.

To be eligible for this studentship, applicants should have a first or upper second-class degree in psychology or a related discipline and an appropriate Master’s level qualification with Merit or Distinction.

To apply, applicants should submit a CV with two references, and a cover letter/personal statement highlighting their suitability for the proposed research and relevant experience in the proposed area of study. Applicants should highlight relevant skills in psychological research, including in research design and research methods, statistics, and their motivation and preparedness to engage in doctoral level research.

Applications and informal enquiries should be directed to the projects primary supervisor, Dr Steven Gillespie (), before applying.

Shortlisting will be completed by the supervisory team at the University of Liverpool and the external partner, G-Map Services, and shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview. 


Dr Steven Gillespie, University of Liverpool, 

Dr Andrew Jones, University of Liverpool, 

Prof Anthony Beech, University of Birmingham, .k

Dr Helen Griffin, G-map, 




Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The studentship is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) via the North West Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NWSSDTP).