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Childhood sexual experiences


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Hi leejack760-

Yes, it is quite common for children to be curious about other people's bodies, particularly in comparison to their own. Children are also very interested in how the body works and responds. Many young children play games of "doctor" or some other sort of exploring the body type game (involving touching.

Children engage in sex play for several different reasons: they are curious about bodies, they are just learning about body differences and/or sex, they are focused on how babies are made and pregnancy (perhaps a new sibling is on the way, or has been born recently, or is being breastfed), or they are simply bored or uninterested in other things that are going on.

It is best to respond to these situations in as matter of fact ways as possible to avoid teaching the child that bodies and sex are dirty or shameful. You can have all sorts of productive teaching discussions (about public and private behavior, about good and bad touching, about the differences between boys and girls, etc.).

I would be concerned if the child shows excessive amounts of this type of behavior, as it may be a warning sign that he or she is being sexually abused. Here are some warning signs of sexual abuse that should be followed up on: a child who is preoccupied with sex play (frequent masturbation, touching other children’s genitals, exposing genitals frequently), significantly more knowledgable about sexual topics than other children of his or her age, who shows unusual sexual behavior (constantly touching his genitals, rubbing genitals on inanimate objects, mimicking sex with dolls or toys), or who shows dramatic behavior changes (becomes withdrawn, aggressive, highly irritable, etc. and hasn't been that way before). Again, sex play is not abnormal, but if the frequency is of a concern, check with a pediatrician.

You can find more information about this topic in our series on child development. and the parenting information contained there.

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