Review the outline below and read the article and brochure.
- Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviors by Toni Cavanagh Johnson, Ph.D., 2009
- Clinical Report: The Evaluation of Sexual Behaviors in Children, by Nancy D. Kellogg and the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, August 31, 2009. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Click here to access this article on the American Academy of Pediatrics publications site. Should you have issues with this link, please see the article in the printer-friendly file links above.
- Optional: www.drspock.com provides multiple strategies for parents to understand and respond to their child’s healthy sexual behavior
A. Definition: Toni Cavanagh Johnson suggests a working definition of healthy child sexual behavior as “Natural and healthy sexual exploration during childhood is an information gathering process where children explore each other’s bodies by looking and touching, as well as explore gender roles and behaviors.” Specific components of healthy child sexual behavior include:
- Behavior is between children of similar age, size, and development
- Behavior is voluntary and shared
- Behavior is limited in type and frequency
- Behavior is balanced with other aspects of exploration and curiosity
- When instructed to stop, the behavior generally diminishes
B. Most children will engage in sexual behaviors at various times during their childhood.
- Children experience pleasurable sensations with touching and rubbing. Some children experience arousal and even orgasm.
- Sexual behavior is developmentally appropriate for the child, may be transient and occur within predictable stages that include curiosity about aspects of their own body as well as curiosity and testing of interpersonal boundaries.
- Individual differences among childhood exist across types of behaviors, including sexual behaviors.
- Parents and caregivers can guide and redirect the child’s sexual behavior, establishing norms and boundaries on what is appropriate
C. Certain stressors are associated with changes in child sexualized behavior, such as
- Developmental growth of the individual child
- Family characteristics
- Environmental factors
- Abuse and Neglect
- Co-morbid diagnosis
D. Problematic Child Sexual Behavior
- There are many reasons for problematic child sexual behaviors.
- Problematic child sexual behaviors do not necessarily imply the child has been sexually abused but do merit further assessment.
- Although sexually abused children may display more sexual behaviors with greater frequency, there is no one specific sexual behavior that is indicative of sexual abuse.
- If the problematic child sexual behavior is intrusive, hurtful, and/or age inappropriate, a comprehensive assessment by an expert is warranted.
- Problematic sexual behaviors in children can be addressed and changed.