Understanding Sexual Behavior in Children (Part 2: Unhealthy Behavior)


In my first article on this topic, I listed the healthy sexual behaviors you might expect to see in children. In Part 2, I present to you some potentially unhealthy sexual behaviors.  This is by no means an exhaustive list nor does it mean there is an emergency. But what it does mean is you need to ask some questions (of your child, if age appropriate, or of your pediatrician). They can be signs of something bigger and you should seek the help and advice of professionals.

This list of unhealthy sexual behaviors comes from Healthy Touch for Children and Youth Training.

Toddler and Preschool (2-5 years old)

  • Use of explicit sexual language or describing adult sex acts
  • Copying adult sex acts
  • Adult-like sexual contact with adults or other children
  • Oral, genital, or anal contact with others

Middle Childhood (5-8 years old)

  • Adult-like sexual interactions
  • Overtly sexual language or talking about mature sex acts
  • Public masturbation
  • Sexual exploration with age or ability discrepancy

Pre-Adolescence and Teens (9-13 years old)

  • Adult-like sexual acts
  • Engaging in sexual behaviors in public
  • Sexual interest toward younger children
  • Directing sexual behaviors to older adolescents or adults
  • Engaging in sexual behaviors even after being told to stop
  • Sexual thoughts or interactions that interfere with normal activities and cause stress or anxiety
  • Sexual acts that are aggressive or hurtful to self of others
  • Use of bribery, threats, or force to engage others in sexual acts

One practice that is particularly common for parents to question is masturbation. This is a normal part of a child’s sexual development that begins in middle childhood (5-8 years old). If you make a big deal out of it, it causes your child to become more anxious and may make the problem worse. There are things that you can say or do to make sure they do not feel ashamed that they are doing it and so they know it’s not okay to do it anywhere they want.  “That’s something we do in private.” Or, “Take your hand out of your pants.” If they would rather masturbate than play with toys, friends, or go outside, then you should be more concerned and seek the advice of your pediatrician.

As with any concern you have about your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician. They can be your best source for more information or resources in the community. If you suspect child sexual abuse, contact your local child advocacy center or local law enforcement.  You can find your area Child Advocacy Center in California here https://www.cacc-online.org/find-a-center or in the United States at https://www.nationalcac.org/find-a-cac/.

Other Resources

Call 866-FOR-LIGHT or text LIGHT to 741741 to have questions answered or chat with a trained crisis counselor, 24/7 at no charge. All conversations are confidential.

Call 800-656-HOPE for RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

Visit www.stopitnow.org

Visit www.preventchildabuse.org

If you are interested in organizing training on this topic or others related to child sexual abuse prevention, please contact me at tlkleonardd2l@yahoo.com.



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