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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/practice-approach/practice-standards/ensure-safety-and-wellbeing/definitions-of-abuse-neglect-and-harm/harmful-behaviour/
Printed: 29/09/2021
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Last updated: 01/07/2019

Harmful behaviour

What distinguishes age-appropriate exploration from ‘harmful behaviour’ is the extent of the behaviour and the impact on te tamaiti.

Upcoming changes for this content

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this content. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice shift

What is harmful behaviour

Te tamaiti has behaved or is behaving in a manner that:

  • is, or is likely to be, harmful to the physical, mental or emotional wellbeing of te tamaiti or to others, and
  • the parents or people having the care of te tamaiti are unable or unwilling to control them.

This may include 1 or more of the following:

  • drug taking behaviour
  • harmful or concerning sexual behaviour
  • deliberate action by te tamaiti to harm themselves (suicide risk or self-harm, sexual activity that places te tamaiti at risk)
  • internet or social media activity that is harmful
  • alleged offending that poses a serious risk to others.

Many tamariki and rangatahi engage in these types of behaviours during their lives. What distinguishes age-appropriate exploration from 'harmful behaviour' is the extent of the behaviour and the impact on te tamaiti. It is therefore important to be clear regarding the actual or potential impact on the safety or wellbeing of te tamaiti, or others, from the behaviours that te tamaiti is engaging in. The Tuituia Assessment Behaviour domain will assist in making this assessment.

Behaviour — Tuituia domain

In addition to the harmful behaviours being present, the parents, or person having the care of te tamaiti, need to be assessed as being unable or unwilling to control them. It may be that the parents have worked hard to bring about change and manage the behaviour of te tamaiti, but have been unsuccessful and have exhausted all avenues. Alternatively, the parents or person caring for te tamaiti may not have concerns regarding the behaviour and its impact on te tamaiti, have not sought to address it, or have abdicated any responsibility for managing behaviour. 

Emotional abuse