What Is Appropriate Childhood Sexual Behavior?

When a child engages in sexual behavior, it can be difficult to know if this is a normal, expected, and appropriate part of the sexual maturation process, or if it indicates a problematic behavior. According to the leading expert in the field of childhood sexual behaviors, Dr. Toni Cavanaugh Johnson, we would expect children’s sexual behavior to be seen as information gathering behaviors and done in an exploratory manner. Natural and healthy sexual play typically occurs when children are of “similar age, size, and developmental status,” and it is voluntary activity. Although siblings may engage in mutual sexual exploration, the majority of sexual play occurs between children who have a mutual friendship. In healthy sexual development, the behaviors are limited in the frequency and type of behaviors engaged in. Children should not have a preoccupation with sexual behaviors and should demonstrate interest and curiosity about a wide variety of things. Further, healthy sexual exploration may result in some degree of embarrassment; however, it would be unusual for children to have deep feelings of shame, fear, anger, or anxiety. If children are seen in acts of sexual exploration and asked to stop, the behavior usually diminishes. Developmentally-appropriate behaviors are typically conducted in a light-hearted and spontaneous manner.

If you have questions regarding the appropriateness of your child’s sexual behavior, please contact Nickerson and Associates, PC, to schedule an assessment with one of our providers at 630-752-9725.

Information was gathered from Johnson, T.C. (2007). Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviors: What’s Natural and Healthy.

Submitted by Carol Schwerha, PsyD Licensed Clinical Psychologist

I found porn on my son’s computer? How should I handle that?

One old-fashioned saying is “boys will be boys”. But, sometimes pornography is more than that. The difficulty with dismissing the internet pornography of today as “normal” is the fact that online porn is very different from the Playboy magazines that used to be a boy’s first glimpse of pornography. Pornography today online is more graphic and violent. Pornography delivery via internet and computer has a higher potential likelihood of addiction than pornography in print media. If you have concerns about your son’s pornography use, please contact our office to arrange for a consultation so that we may consider all the facts in your situation and offer you guidance tailored to suit you and your family.