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Sexual Behaviour of Children

This section provides information on Sexual Behaviours of Children aged 0-12 years.

Sexual behaviours of children aged 0–4 years: infant, toddler and preschool

Age-appropriate Sexual behaviours:

  • Touching or rubbing their own genitals
  • Enjoying being nude
  • Showing others their genitals
  • Playing doctors and nurses
  • Playing mummies and daddies
  • Touching or looking at the private parts of other children or familiar adults
  • Using slang words/dirty language for bathroom and sexual functions, talking about "sexing"

Concerning sexual behaviours :

  • Persistent masturbation that does not cease when told to stop
  • Forcing another child to engage in sexual play
  • Sexualising play with dolls such as "humping" a teddy bear
  • Touching the private parts of adults not known to the child
  • Chronic peeping behaviour

Very concerning sexual behaviours:

  • Persistently touching or rubbing themselves to the exclusion of normal childhood activities; hurting their own genitals by rubbing or touching
  • Simulating sex with other children, with or without clothes on
  • Oral sex
  • Sexual play involving forceful anal or vaginal penetration with objects

Source: Johnson 1999, Johnson & Doonan 2006

Sexual behaviours of children aged 5–7 years: early school years

Age-appropriate sexual behaviours

  • Self-touching including masturbating
  • ‘Show me yours/I’ll show you mine’ with same-age children
  • Hearing and telling age-appropriate dirty jokes
  • Playing mummies and daddies
  • Kissing/holding hands
  • Mimicking or practicing observed behaviours such as pinching a bottom

Concerning sexual behaviours

  • Continually rubbing/touching their own genitals in public
  • Persistent use of dirty words
  • Wanting to play sex games with much older or younger children
  • Continually wanting to touch the private parts of other children
  • Chronic peeping behaviour

Very concerning sexual behaviours

  • Touching or rubbing themselves persistently in private or public to the exclusion of normal childhood activities
  • Rubbing their genitals on other people
  • Forcing other children to play sexual games
  • Sexual knowledge too advanced for their age
  • Talking about sex and sexual acts habitually

Source: Johnson 1999, Johnson & Doonan 2006

Sexual behaviours of children aged 8–12 years: pre-adolescent

Age-appropriate sexual behaviours

  • Occasional masturbation
  • 'Show me yours/I’ll show you mine’ with peers
  • Kissing and flirting
  • Genital or reproduction conversations with peers
  • Dirty words or jokes with their peer group

Concerning sexual behaviours

  • Attempting to expose others’ genitals
  • Sexual knowledge too advanced for their age once context is considered
  • Preoccupation with masturbation
  • Mutual masturbation/group masturbation
  • Single occurrence of peeping, exposing, obscenities, pornographic interest (sources include the internet, pay TV, videos, DVDs and magazines)
  • Stimulating foreplay or intercourse with peers with their clothes on

Very concerning sexual behaviours

  • Compulsive masturbation, including task interruption to masturbate
  • Repeated or chronic peeping, exposing or using obscenities
  • Chronic pornographic interest including child pornography* (sources include the internet, pay TV, videos, DVDs and magazines)
  • Degradation/humiliation of themselves using sexual themes
  • Degradation/humiliation of others using sexual themes
  • Touching the genitals of others without permission*
  • Sexually explicit threats – written or verbal*
  • Forced exposure of others’ genitals*
  • Simulating intercourse with peers with clothes off
  • Penetration of dolls, children or animals*
  • For children aged 10–12, these behaviours may constitute criminal offences such as indecent assault, indecent act, or sexual assault (common law).

Source: Ryan 2000

* For children aged 10 - 12, these behaviours may constitute criminal offences such as indecent assault, indecent act, or sexual assault (common law).

Source : Raising Happy children and providing safe childhoods - A Reader by Ministry of Women and Child Development

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