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How social workers assess sexual addiction among adolescents


Academic year: 2024

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We would especially like to thank all our participants who managed to take the time to participate in this study to share their experiences and also their enthusiastic support by suggesting further research. And last but not least, we would like to thank our supervisor Inger Linblad, who shared her knowledge and gave us the tools to complete this study.


  • Background
  • Connection to international social work
  • Aim
  • Issue
  • Limitations
    • Location
    • Target group
  • Definitions
  • Disposition

In this sense, the phenomenon of adolescent sexual addiction is strongly connected with social work. The aim of our research is to investigate how professional social workers define sexual addiction among adolescents.

Previous Research


Hypersexuality is the term that has been the proposed terminology, describing sexual addiction, for the upcoming DSM-V. The term hypersexuality is included in the DSM-V, but with the statement that further research is necessary (American Psychiatric Association, 2014).

Sexual addiction – Definition

  • Symptoms
  • Critique
  • Sexual Addiction amongst adolescents

The clinical way to look at sexual addiction according to Levine (2010) is whether the sexual behavior is clearly harmful to oneself or others. It has also been asserted by Woody (2011), that the term sexual addiction, however, is problematic as it tends to stigmatize and pathologize normative sexual behaviors such as masturbation, use of pornography, etc.

Theoretical Framework

Social constructionism

14 The third point explains the ways of making meaning that are embedded in society and culture and are also specific to each time and place. situation (ibid.). The fourth principle, clearly stated by Lock & Strong (2010:7), is that “people are self-determining and socially constructed participants in their shared lives” – in other words, an objective method that can potentially delineate within predefined boundaries. entities are simply absent, but we all try to adopt our ways of making meaning from different forms of self. Strong (2010), social constructionists attempt to define the processes that take place in the socio-cultural set of actions in order to conduct the discourse within which people understand and explain themselves.

The fifth point, which Lock & Strong (2010) argue and which social constructionists agree on, is the adoption of social constructionism's critical perspective on the subject - taking into account the operations of the social world, analyze them, replace them if necessary , with fairer operations to develop the political distribution of power. This ability to adopt is a crucial difference between social constructionism and traditional theorizing, which is used only for the explanation and understanding of these operations or processes. Lock and Strong (2010) believe that social constructionism is more about social reality than language – they suggest that there is a pre-linguistic domain to people's experience.

In our research, we decided to turn to the expertise of social workers and their work experience in the field of adolescent sexual addiction. Discourse analysis is useful in researching people's communications and experiences, which corresponds to our example of a quantitative study.


  • Research design
  • Selection of methods
  • Mode of procedure
    • Choice of literature
    • Sampling
    • Investigation process
  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Tools for analysis

Consultations were made with each other and with the supervisor to determine the selection of various articles, books and dissertations. However, the phone was used to make contact with several clinics by recording a message on their answering machine. This required detailed time planning to visit as many clinics as possible.

Each interview was recorded so that we as interviewers could focus on the topic (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The questions were developed as open-ended questions, in accordance with a semi-structured interview (ibid.), to allow the professionals to share their opinions and knowledge on the topic of sex addiction in relation to the research questions. However, some closed questions were asked to confirm the interviewee's answer, if necessary.

However, the questions in accordance with the interview guide were thoroughly presented and discussed to gain an accurate understanding on the part of the interviewee. This was done to avoid loss of data and interpretations (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009).

Reliability, validity and generalization

  • Reliability
  • Validity
  • Generalizability
  • Ethical considerations

Potential consequences were avoided by addressing the ethical issues of the investigation by following the advice of Kvale & Brinkmann. Validity at this point is represented by the credibility of the interviewee's statement and the quality of the interview itself. Since the answers of the interviewees turned out to be largely similar and also due to similarities in education, location, experience and practice, we can claim that the given answers were valid for conducting our research.

When analyzing, emphasis is placed on questions related to the text, their topicality and the logic of the interpretation of the results. Simply put, the results of research tend to be more general, increasing their applicability from a single case to other cases within the same scientific field. To conduct the study ethically and preserve the privacy and dignity of the participants, we followed the advice of Kvale & Brinkmann (2009) and continued to be concerned about this from the beginning of our study until the final article.

The design of the investigation was also strictly structured - all our interview subjects were informed both in writing and orally about the details of our investigation. Confidentiality of the interviewees was absolutely ensured; all possible consequences are considered.

Results and analysis

  • Theme one: The definition of adolescent sexual addiction, according to social workers
  • Theme two: Distinctive traits related to sexual addiction amongst adolescents
  • Theme three: Discovering sexual addiction amongst adolescents as a professional
  • Theme four: Terminology
  • Theme five: Sexual addiction VS. Sexual self-harm
  • Theme six: Connection to alcohol
  • Theme seven: Professional means for prevention

Thus, social workers cannot determine sexual addiction based on the social context of the amount of sexual behavior. The definition of sexual addiction in adolescents also includes a social aspect, which is described by most of the interviewees and consists of a disorder of sexual behavior and/or fantasies in everyday life. That due to the age of the person and the everyday life associated with teenagers, sexual addiction is more difficult to detect.

From the systematization of the answers given, it can be seen that the statements with which the professionals agree is that the sexual addiction of adolescents can differ from the sexual addiction of adults due to the unstable behavior related to the search for identity and the social interactions between this special age group. . What was revealed within the results was that each description for detecting sexual addiction is based on the conversation with the client. It can be seen very differently in practice [..] It is easy to detect a misuse, but sexual addiction…”.

The professionals themselves encounter difficulties in giving a strict definition of the phenomena, however, the term "sexual addiction" is not considered absolutely correct, because the term itself is unstable. 31 This participant does not identify sex addiction as a pure addiction, for basic simplistic reasons. When discussing sexual addiction, sexual self-injury was raised by every participant and was sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual addiction.

One participant links sexual addiction to other types of addictions; moreover, he emphasizes that they can coexist and flow from each other.


  • Brief summary of the results
  • Discussion of the results from a social constructionist perspective
  • Comparison to previous research regarding sexual addiction
  • Alternative interpretation of results
  • Suggestion for Further Research

However, the main thing in the findings regarding adolescent sexual addiction is that teenagers are developing and the sexual behavior that indicates sexual addiction may or may not be permanent, a diagnosis or label may be difficult to determine due to the current development of young people. . There is also confusion regarding sexual addiction and sexual self-harm, creating problems with definition due to the lack of understanding of what is what. This factor in terms of quantity and promiscuity can presumably be a reflection of the Swedish public's attitude towards the sexual addiction of young people.

Starting from the definition of sexual addiction, the previous research states that the general clinical way of looking at sexual addiction is if the sexual behavior is obviously harmful to oneself or others. Relief of anxiety through sexual behavior is seen as the primary source of sexual addiction, consistent with our findings. This is also evident from the criticism raised in the previous research that the concept of sexual addiction is problematic as it tends to stigmatize and pathologize normative sexual behaviour.

This shows the difficulties in defining sex addiction, so further research into the nature of sex addiction itself is essential for a proper definition. Although it has been noted in previous research that adolescent sexual addiction is quite similar to adult sexual addiction, examining the specific features of adolescent sexual addiction in relationships with adults is also important.


Psychology today (2009) Paraphilias http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/paraphilias [accessed 19 August The Psychobiology of Sexual Addiction' Sexual Addiction. RFSU (Swedish Association for Sex Education) (2010) Sex in Sweden – About Swedish sex life http://www.rfsu.se/en/Engelska/About-rfsu/Resources/Statistics--Facts-- Sweden-/ [accessed on August 12, 2013]. Researching the Real World: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers. 2009) 'The Role of Sexual Compulsivity in Casual Sexual Partnerships among College Women' Addiction and Sexual Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention.

2011) 'Sexuellt beroende/hypersexualitet och DSM: Uppdatering och övningsvägledning för socialarbetare' Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. 2013) 'Psykiatrisk diagnos har tagit ett steg framåt - DSM-IV har blivit DSM-5'.

How strong is the link between sexual addiction and other types of abuse (eg alcohol, drugs etc.). What are the most common consequences that would follow abnormal sexual behavior that indicates sexual addiction. How do you as a professional look at the risks that would follow abnormal sexual behavior that indicates sexual addiction.

How you work in your professional role to detect abnormal sexual behavior that indicates sexual addiction. Do you use any specific methods to detect abnormal sexual behavior, which may indicate sexual addiction tendencies, in adolescents. How can you as professionals work with prevention regarding abnormal sexual behaviors that indicate sexual addiction.


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