Lesson 9: Spectrum of Behaviours

Child abuse sits within a spectrum of behaviours towards children, with healthy and positive behaviours within a child-safe environment at one end, and sexual abuse at the other. Read through the each point to understand about the different stages of this spectrum of behaviours.

Child Safe Behaviours

  • The club environment and behaviours of club members, volunteers and employees ensures that all children (anyone under 18) are able to participate and enjoy their sport free from any form of abuse, neglect, inappropriate or hostile adult behaviour.
  • Children are treated with respect and are expected to treat adults with respect.

Inappropriate Behaviour

  • Inappropriate behaviours from adults towards children that are inappropriate may involve behaviours that ‘technically’ don’t break any rules or laws (but could breach a code of conduct), but are unwanted around the club environment and are not consistent with respectful behaviour towards children.
  • These may include swearing in the presence of children, making suggestive comments, asking a teenage child about their ‘love life’, not asking permission from the child to touch them when demonstrating a skill that requires physical contact.
  • It is expected that these behaviours would be noticed and dealt with in a sensitive but clear-cut way, and that all adults and children involved in the club environment would be aware of what is expected of them in their behaviour towards children.

Unacceptable Behaviour

  • Unacceptable behaviours fall in the ‘grey area’ when it comes to the legal definition of abuse. These behaviours are unacceptable, and if allowed to continue could easily escalate into legally defined abuse and neglect.
  • Examples might include any use of camera equipment in any areas were private activities occur (eg. change rooms), turning a blind eye to bullying behaviour and continual disregard for a child’s personal space and boundaries when demonstrating a skill that requires physical contact. When behaviour has reached this unacceptable level, it has quite likely been allowed to go unchecked or un-noticed.
  • This sort of behaviour usually indicates poor communication in the club about acceptable behaviour, poor monitoring of adult behaviour towards children, and a poor awareness in the club environment of child safety.
  • This behaviour should be dealt with immediately. If there is any question in relation to whether someone’s behaviour constitutes child abuse, it is advisable to contact the relevant authorities and discuss it with them.


  • This is behaviour that exposes a child or children to physical or emotional harm.
  • It can take many forms, such as allowing facilities to run down and become potential dangers, or having unsafe equipment.
  • It also extends to the duty of care of the adults towards children. For example, taking children on club excursions and not being diligent when they cross a road, or allowing children to roam unaccompanied in a public place while under the care of the club.
  • It may also include a neglect in dealing with potentially abusive situations, harassment or bullying.

Physical and/or Emotional Abuse

  • At this point of the spectrum there are behaviours that fall within the legal definition of physical or emotional abuse.
  • Slapping, pushing, hitting a child are examples of physical abuse. Continued humiliation or abusive treatment are examples of emotional abuse.
  • A club or organisation should have policies in place to deal with any complaints of this nature, and to also support any volunteers or workers who are the subject of a complaint.
  • Proper education, diligent monitoring, effective policies and systems should all work towards avoiding this behaviour taking place.


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