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You are here: Home >> Resources >> Handouts >> Understanding the sexuality of children

September, 2004

The following material contains explicit/graphic references to sexual behaviors.  The material is presented here to help concerned individuals and caregivers identify adverse behaviors in the sexual development of children (Kdg.-4).

If you have specific questions, or are concerned about the frequency, duration, and/or intensity of any behaviors, please contact a specialist trained in child sexual abuse assessment/treatment.

Normal Range Of Concern Seek Professional Help
Asks about the genitals, breasts, intercourse, babies. Shows fear or anxiety about sexual topics. Asks endless questions about sex.  Sexual knowledge too great for age.
Interested in watching/peeking at people doing bathroom functions. Keeps getting caught watching/peeking at others doing bathroom functions. Refuses to leave people alone in bathroom.
Uses "dirty" words for bathroom functions, genitals, and sex. Continues to use "dirty" words with adults after parent says "no" and punishes. Continues use of "dirty" words even after exclusion from school and activities.
Plays doctor, inspecting other's bodies. Frequently plays doctor and gets caught after being told "no." Forces other children to play doctor, to take off clothes.
Boys and girls are interested in having/birthing a baby. Boy keeps making believe he is having baby after month/s. Displays fear or anger about babies or intercourse.
Shows others his/her genitals. Wants to be nude in public after parent says "no" and punishes child. Refuses to put on clothes.  Exposes self in public after many scoldings.
Interested in urination and defecation. Plays with feces.  Purposely urinates on floor.  Repeatedly plays or smears feces.  Urinates on furniture on purpose.
Touches/rubs own genitals when going to sleep, when tense, excited or afraid. Continues to touch/rub genitals in public after being told "no."  Masturbates on furniture or with objects. Touches/rubs self in public or private to the exclusion of normal childhood activities.  Masturbates on people.
Plays house, may simulate all roles of mommy and daddy. Humps other children with clothes on.  Imitates sexual behavior with dolls/stuffed toy. Humps naked.  Intercourse with another child.  Forces sex on other child.
Thinks other children are "gross" or have "cooties."  Chases them. Uses "dirty" language when other children really complain. Uses bad language against other child's family.  Hurts other gender children.
Talks about sex with friends.  Talks about having a girl/boyfriend. Sex talk gets child in trouble.  Gets upset with public displays of affection. Talks about sex and sexual acts a lot.  Repeatedly in trouble in regard to sexual behavior.
Wants privacy when in bathroom or changing clothes. Becomes very upset when seen changing clothes. Aggressive or tearful in demand for privacy.
Likes to hear and tell "dirty" jokes. Keeps getting caught telling "dirty" jokes.  Makes sexual sounds, e.g. moans. Still tells "dirty" jokes, even after exclusion from school and other activities.
Looks at nude pictures. Continuous fascination with nude pictures. Wants to masturbate to nude pictures or display them.
Plays games with same-aged children related to sex or sexuality. Wants to play games with much younger children related to sex and sexuality. Forces others to play games related to sex and sexuality.  Group forces children to play.
Draws genitals on human figures. Draws genitals on one figure and not another.  Genitals in disproportionate size to body. Draws genitals as most prominent feature.  Draws pictures of intercourse, group sex.
Explores differences between males and females, boys and girls. Confused about male/female differences after all questions have been answered. Plays male or female roles in a sad, angry, or aggressive manner.  Hates own/other sex.
Takes advantage or opportunity to look at nude child or adult. Stares/sneaks to stare at nude persons even after having seen many persons nude. Asks people to take off their clothes.  Tries to forcibly undress people.
Pretends to be opposite sex. Wants to be opposite sex. Hates being own sex.  Hates own genitals.
Wants to compare genitals with peer-aged friends. Wants to compare genitals with much older or much younger children or adults. Demands to see the genitals, breasts, buttocks or children or adults.
Wants to touch genitals, breasts, buttocks of other same-age child or have child touch him/her. Continuously wants to touch genitals, breasts, buttocks of other child/ren.  Tries to engage in oral, anal, vaginal sex. Manipulates or forces other child to allow touching of genitals, breasts, buttocks. Forces or mutual oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
Kisses familiar adults and children.  Allows kissing by familiar adults and children. French kisses.  Talks in sexualized manner with others.  Fearful of hugs and kisses by adults.  Gets upset with public display of affection. Is overly familiar with strangers.  Talks in a sexualized manner with unknown adults.
Looks at the genitals, buttocks, breasts of adults. Touches/stares at the genitals, breasts, buttocks of adults.  Asks adults to touch him/her on genitals. Sneakily or forcibly touches genitals, breasts, buttocks of adults.  Tries to manipulate adults into touching him/her.
Has erections. Continuous erections. Painful erections.
Puts something in own genitals/rectum. Puts something in own genitals/rectum when it feels uncomfortable.  Puts something in the genitals/rectum of other children. Uses any coercion or force in putting something in  genitals/rectum of other child.  Anal, vaginal, intercourse.  Causes harm to own genitals/rectum.
Interested in breeding behavior of animals. Touches genitals of animals. Engages in sexual behaviors with animals.


See also:
The effects of child sexual abuse
Sexual abuse continuum

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