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The Development of Sexual Behaviour

6 Pages

Course Code
Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

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The Development of Sexual Behaviour  Sexual behaviour is something that develops over time Part 1: Infancy & Childhood A. Sexual Responsiveness in Infants  1. Capacity for sexual arousal is present at birth - not exactly true - present before birth -- ultrasounds will show that baby boys have erections in the womb; baby girls are capable of vaginal lubrication within 24 hours of birth  2. Responses are “reflexive”. Result from: • physical stimulation (crying, full-bladder); • psychological stimulation (watching exciting things; fires, wild animals)  3. Responses are indiscriminate (caused by a wide variety of things) - reflexive indiscriminate behaviour  responses become much more selective as children get older B. Sexual Behaviour in Childhood  sexual behaviour takes the form of “play”  1. if the child plays alone, it’s called “autoerotic play” -- emerges 6-12 months of age • random contact with genitals (pleasurable) • eventually, the contact is no longer random and the contact becomes deliberate  2. Sociosexual play (emerges age 3): • reflects curiosity (about others’ bodies); • expressed in games (e.g. “playing Doctor”) • games that allow children to take their clothes off and look at each others bodies - exploration usually involves nothing more than looking even though there may be signs of sexual arousal  3. How should parents respond?  Experts suggest there are two things they should keep in mind: • A) it’s natural (don’t over-react) • B) their response = the first step in the child’s sexual socialization C. Sexual Socialization of Children 1. Cross-cultural studies: In some cultures, children are • allowed to watch adults have sex, • encouraged to imitate sexual intercourse when playing with friends, • taught how to masturbate; perform oral sex • WHY?  if they don’t have these early experiences, they won’t become “fertile” (capable of producing children on their own)  Important point: Children in all cultures much learn appropriate sexual behaviour (every culture is different) • limited by what they are capable of learning (cognitive development); • limited by what society allows them to learn 2. The Role of Parents (in our society)  communication between parents and children is not always open and honest  see this most clearly when we look at the strategies that parents use for controlling the information they give to their children (a) Parents’ strategies for Information Control:  Labeling: sexual behaviour is label as wrong but there’s no explanation for why it’s wrong (ex. the child is caught for playing with himself but there’s no explanation for why it’s wrong)  Non-Labeling: use distraction to shift focus of sexual discussion (ex. a child who asks “how did mom get pregnant” might get told “mom and dad were in love” -- conversation was shifted to another topic instead of explaining reproduction)  Mislabeling: sexual behaviour is labeled as wrong (but for incorrect reason) -- fear and shame about sexual behaviour (ex. child told not to play with themselves because they will get germs) (b) Kid’s nicknames for sexual organs:  Penis: one study found that children came up with more than 60 words  Vagina: more than 40 words  even when kids knew the correct term, they wouldn’t use it because they thought it would be dirty or wrong to use the correct word (c) Parents’ nonverbal communication:  kids quickly pick up on parents who fidget, blush, or get uncomfortable  often signals anxiety about sexual behaviour  e.g. pictures of “birth” drawn by American and Swedish kids - Swedish kids drew more accurate pictures of birth (d) Why isn’t communication more open and honest?  parents uncomfortable discussing sex with each other (let alone children)  some parents are willing to discuss sex with their children but only if the children ask - problem: often the question is never asked so the conversation never happens  others will discuss sex only at “appropriate time” - many parents don’t have any clue when the appropriate time is!  some believe discussion will encourage kids to experiment • when parents are the main source of sexual information, young people are less likely to engage in premarital sexual intercourse • when their only inf
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