Group-Associated Child Sexual Exploitation: Exploring the Networks

  • Maureen Taylor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child sexual exploitation (CSE) and abuse has been identified as an issue of increasing concern by the UK government and the National Crime Agency. This has in part been fuelled by media reporting of large scale, high profile cases involving gangs of men grooming and sexually abusing girls and a failure of the police and other agencies to respond effectively. As such, there has been a welcome shift in the way child sexual exploitation is conceptualised and responses to it are operationalised. However, this has been characterised by inconsistencies underpinned by an incomplete understanding of child sexual exploitation due to its broad, complex and largely covert nature, the conflation of all forms of child sexual abuse, and a tendency to frame it as organised crime. However, without a reliable evidence base, policy and operational responses to it are likely to be misguided.

This research attempts to fill a gap in evidence about the nature of group-associated child sexual exploitation. Using social network analysis to reconstruct and thematically analyse 7 CSE networks in England, it concludes there is no single typology of child sexual exploitation. In contrast to notions of organised crime, child sexual exploitation is better described as crime that is organised and typified by the routine activities and everyday associations between victims and offenders that facilitate child sexual exploitation. This understanding, and the use of social network analysis could go some way to developing contextually based responses that safeguard children and expose networks that have so far been hidden, albeit in plain sight.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorLesley McMillan (Supervisor) & Annette Robertson (Supervisor)

Cite this