Childhood and Adolescent Sexuality
Sexuality across the Life Span
Learning about Sex
When does sex education begin? Does it begin when an infant’s diapers are being
changes and the infant plays with their genitals? Does it begin when a child starts to
notice the anatomical differences between themselves and others? Does it begin when a
child begins to ask questions? What do you thing? Prior to reading this chapter did you
have an opinion? Is this something you thought about? Is your opinion different now?
Putting the two pieces of knowledge together gives you the opportunity to assess your
In these notes we will speak about the focus of currently research with respect to sexual
behavior in children, adolescents and seniors. We will also look at stages of development
as their relate to sexual behavior. We will begin with issues related to sex education.
There are various views on when to talk to children about sex. They vary from no
discussion to various levels of information depending upon the comfort level of the adult.
Children’s parents, their church, peers and teachers all contribute to their sexual
education. Each person or institution brings their own values and viewpoints to it.
Does this cause any confusion for children? Think back to your childhood and consider
the following questions?
What did you learn about sex during childhood?
What did you learn from your parents?
What did you learn from same-sex peers? Other sex peers?
Where else did you learn about sex (doctors, siblings, media, school, religion)?
Did you ever get caught playing sex games? What happened? How did you feel about
Sexual knowledge and attitudes:
Secrecy surrounding sexuality is typically taught to children during early childhood as
they learn about covering up the genitals and not touching them in public
Children are rarely taught the anatomically correct names for their genitals
Due to visibility of penises, boys and girls express more excitement in boys’ bodies, and
boys learn more about sexual pleasure and penises, while girls learn very little about
What do you see as the implications of this? Do you think boys may become more
comfortable with their bodies earlier than girls? Why or Why not? Abstinence only Sex education
Consider whether or not you would choose this option for your family. Consider the
thoughts about this approach listed below.
Abstinence-only program emphasize abstinence from all sexual behaviours without providing
information about contraception or disease prevention
Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs present marriage as the only morally acceptable context
for sexually activity
Abstinence only programs often exaggerate the negative consequences of sexual behaviour,
portraying sexuality as dangerous and harmful
Many believe information on contraception and STI’s should be included in abstinence education
Some abstinence only programs are fear based
Sexuality Education Programs
Most sexual education programs focus on are not inclusive: meaning the underlying
assumption is that human sexuality is heterosexuality. This is not correct. An inclusive
education program would better address the needs of all individuals.
Examples of current research in the area of human sexuality
These include but are not limited to:
Frequency of sexual behaviour other than intercourse
Differences in gender, ethnicity, race, religion, and social class
Same-sex preferences and behaviour
Meaning of sexuality for young people
• Meaning of sexuality for older people
Life Cycle Phases of Development are:
Infancy (Birth to age 2)
Early childhood (Ages 2 to 5)
Childhood through Preadolescence (Ages 6 to 12
Adolescence (Ages 13 to 19)
Sex and disability
Infancy Why might you need to have information about infant development? Parents often
wonder if the behavior of their child falls into the “typical” category and this includes
their sexual behaviour. When assessing developmental milestones in the area of child
development this is a key area. Also, should you be a counsellor working with families it
is helpful for you to know what is “typical” sexual behaviour.
Ultrasound has shown that male fetuses have erections in the uterus
Female babies are capable of vaginal lubrication from birth
Kinsey established half of boys between 3 and 4 could achieve spasms of orgasm, though
no fluid is ejaculated
Kinsey did not collect evidence on girls
Anecdotal evidence suggests that girls do experience orgasm
Single most important aspect of infant development in the is the child’s relationship to its
parents or caregivers
Baby’s crying helps stimulate the secretion of the hormone oxytocin in the mother, which
releases her milk for nursing
Between ages of 1 and 2, children begin to develop their gender identity
Develop gender constancy a bit later when they come to understand that they will not
become a member of the other sex sometime in the future
Develop a strong identification with one gender, they learn about gender role behaviours
Body pleasures such as nursing or other stimulation can create a generalized neurological
response that stimulates the genital response (erections or vaginal lubrication)
Many infants start touching their genitals as soon as their hands are coordinated enough,
around 3 or 4 months of age
Masturbation is normal and common, signals a natural curiosity about exploring the
world and their bodies
Early Childhood (Ages 2 to 5)
Early childhood is a crucial period for overall physical development from walking to
talking Children may learn more in the first few years of childhood about the nature of their bodies
than they learn in the entire remainder of their lives
Toilet training leads to an intense interest in genitals and bodily wastes
During early childhood, children begin to ask basic questions about sexuality
Children are also exploring what it means to be boys and girls
A) over 70% of mothers in one study reported that their children under six masturbate
B) masturbation in early childhood may be deliberate and obvious and may become a
C) parental reaction is very important because parents who are tolerant can teach them to
respect and take pride in their bodies
D) setting socially acceptable limits to touching genitals can be one way parents can
Childhood sex pla