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Protecting children from exploitation: A study of perpetrator characteristics and motivations

   Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences

About the Project

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is increasingly being recognised as a concern within the UK, with the recent IICSA (2022) report suggesting that this is a widespread issue which requires further attention. It is recognised that incidences remain under-reported, and although we are beginning to understand more about victim experiences, there remains a gap in research when it comes to evidence relating to perpetrators. Perpetrator characteristics have been identified globally, through rapid evidence reviews (Walker et al. 2018), but engagement with, and understanding of, perpetrator motivations and characteristics from within the UK remains relatively absent. This is pertinent to the social media/media discourse that has tended to couch this as an explicitly cultural issue; a further element of this research relates to investigating/debunking the myths surrounding these issues. In concrete terms, the research will advance knowledge of causal factors to support professionals to better understand, prevent and respond to the issues present.

This PhD project will aim to explore perpetrator motivations, the extent to which sexuality and sexual activity is framed by their understandings of childhood, consent, and abuse. The research will make connections with the salience of power – as transmitted through class, gender and economic position, which in turn offers insights into ‘why’ certain forms of CSE are becoming apparent. Perpetrator motivations tied to shared or negotiated understandings of consent, childhood and sexuality will also be explored through the research.

We are therefore seeking to recruit an aspiring PhD student, who will develop this piece of work; with supervisory support from across the School of Social Sciences at the University of Bradford. Methodology and method will be agreed between the successful candidate and the supervisory team and will be subject to ethical approval from the University of Bradford. This research is fully funded, to cover fees plus a stipend, which will be awarded to the successful candidate.


Applicants should hold at least a Bachelors degree and preferably a Masters degree from a Higher Education Institution or acceptable equivalent qualification in social work, psychology, sociology or related discipline from the Social Sciences.

Satisfactory completion of a DBS check is required on enrolment and will be processed through the University after registration.

PhD Environment

Being located within the School of Social Sciences, the successful candidate will work alongside a team of researchers as part of a larger portfolio of work which is funded by the UKRI on CSA, which is being led by Dr Samina Karim from the Department of Social Work and Social Care. The successful candidate will also benefit from supervisory input from Sociology, Psychology and Peace Studies/International Development.

How to apply:

The complete application should include a project proposal of up to 2500 words, including a literature review, aims, and an outline of how those aims will be addressed through an outline methodology, which is all referenced appropriately (the reference list does not form part of the word count).

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will be awarded a studentship covering the tuition fees and a stipend for living costs, which will be determined following successful recruitment of a candidate. This award is only for UK students, and students who are settled or pre-settled in the UK.

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