Ch. 10 – Sexuality and the Life Cycle: Childhood and Adolescence
Why is studying sexuality in childhood and adolescence important ??
Below is what we believe to be true throughout life, that during childhood
and old age we are asexual beings
Birth -------------- puberty ------------------------------old age---------------death
But we are actually sexual beings from before we are born all the way though
Something to keep in mind…
Data sources for sexuality research in younger population :
o Interviews of children
o Adolescent sexuality research is problem driven
Problem with survey method grasp of language and reading in children,
you will always need parental permission.
Interviews and observations are rarely done. So where do we get most of our
info, though surveys in 2 ways
o 1) We ask parents to fill in survey about the behaviors they have
witnessed in their children. But the problem with that is social
desirability, this only takes into account for the number of times their
parents will see them, but children will be doing it more than that, the
adult views on sexuality are imposed on children (boy with hands
down his pants are obvious but girl with blanket between her legs is
o 2) We ask adults about their behaviors as children. Problems: A
reporting bias due to recall is tough because it has been a long time.
A lot of children research is about child abuse and not about normative
It would be really helpful to directly observe child sexual behaviours but
there are way too many ethical issues
Leaves the population to freak out everytime they see something that is
sexual in nature and people jump to conclusions much quicker
We have the most research about adolescent sexuality.
Still problematic because those that choose to participate in the surveys may
differ from those who don’t (their comfort level with sexuality may be very
In some instances you may still need parental consent
Teenagers may given socially acceptable answers
All adult research is about sexual problems
Take home message: There are many ethical and methodological problems
with doing research on children especially in the field of sexuality Childhood and Adolescent Psychosexual Development and Sexual Behaviour
Infancy (0-2 years)
Attachment - psychological bond that forms between an infant and the
mother, father, or other caregiver
o Def: A psychological bond that forms between an infant and the
mother, father or caregiver.
Gender identification: Gender awareness stage (knowing about boy-girl
o Gender identification: process by which we realize our identity as
o Anything before 6 months we assume that the babies are starting to
realize they are separate from their mothers and are autonomous.
o Around 2 years old (1 stage called gender awareness)
o They tend to use visual hints (hair, clothes, actions) Things they can
o At this point they are not aware that it is constant and remains stable
throughout life. A boy saying I want to grow up to be a mommy like
• Non-genital sensual experiences
• Ex: warmth, breastfeeding are examples of non-genital sensual
experiences. They are physical reflexes not erotic!
• Exploratory genital manipulation
• Exploratory genital manipulation precursor to self-manipulation,
which leads to masturbation. It is common to see babies when they
are getting changed to put their fingers on their genitals. They are
exploring and understanding their bodies. The adults add or socialize
the taboo. For example when they brush their hands away from their
• No concept of pleasure YET. They feel it and it is not painful but it is
not deemed pleasuring
• Interprets parent’s non-verbal reactions
• Where their feelings about their genitals are developed
• They read their body language and tone, so even if the don’t
understand the words they get the message.
• Children can assume their bodies and becomes part of their self-
Early Childhood (3-7 years)
• Gender Identification: 2) Gender stability and 3) Gender constancy
– Cognitive development approach
– Gender stability a boy will stay a boy forever and a girl will stay a
girl forever. Around 4 or 5 years old. They have a problem with gender non-conformity. Ex a man with long hair and jewelry they
are not sure if the persons gender.
– Gender constancy around 5-7 years old where they come to realize
that anatomy is constant and will remain the same throughout
someone's life no matter what they look like.
• Gender role socialization
– They will engage in activities that are “appropriate” according to
society norms for their respective gender
• Exhibitionist stage
– (Not the same as in adults) This is when you have people over for
dinner and your child runs into the room and lifts their skirt up.
Theories include it is nice being naked, another is that it is fun or
funny being naked or another is that they want to show off their
gender differences. About 90% go though this stage
– They touch each other because it feels good
– They are not aware in sexual relations they just want to explore their
– Research self-stimulation wording used instead of masturbation
(releasing sexual tension to orgasm). The parental reports of how
many boys self-stimulate, boys will do it more (but is it many because
the ways girl do it are more subtle)
• Child sex play
– At this age children play house and doctor (traditional roles) and all
kids want a baby. When playing doctor they will look at nose, ears and
listen to heart, have a pretend pill to take and all those steps are just
as important as the sexual part (pulling down pants). Premeditation is
adult motivation. Meaning sexual element appears spontaneously in
games, but adults look forward to it.
2 things we need to get them to realize.. 1) what they are doing is ok but 2)
there are appropriate contexts to do it (in private)
Challenge is teaching them what is coming out is dirty but not their genitals.
• Social etiquette parents must teach where these actions are appropriate
• Child sex play it appears when children are becoming more social and
interaction is not just in parallel. They are pretty curious; comparing and
reassuring “ill show you mine if you show me yours”. This will still happen
with friends even if exposed to parents naked or siblings naked.
Preadolescence (8-12 years)
• “Latency” or modesty?
• Sexual interest steadily increase during childhood (opposite to what
• Boys masturbate more often then girls and will orgasm more often
• They do it in groups, talk about it with their friends and read about it • Girls tend to talk about the more romantic aspects of sex
• They don’t tend to talk about sex a lot, they learn masturbation and
orgasm by accident
• Boys learn about it from their peers, girls usually discover it by
• Other-sex sexual games and sexual contact
• They have incomplete ideas about sex, they come up with sexual
meaning to words and songs (ADIDAS and Wendy’s where’s the beef?)
But if you actually ask them they have no idea why its funny
• Fascination with teen idols and celebrities
• Making up stupid little games (if you were stranded on an island who
would u want to be with , what would you two do)
• Truth or dare, kissing tag (6-7 years old) , spin the bottle.
• Gender Segregation (homosociality) and same-sex sexual contact
• Your sexual orientation comes into play around 10 years old.
• Organized activities like parties and dances The homosexuals and
bisexuals tend to not go to these events
• A lot of first times during this stage (counting the amount of times
with the number of people)
• Homosociality around 8 years of age kids start to hang out with just
their gender and they will most definitely prefer to be with their
friends of the same gender (explains why you have girls/boys hockey
teams, camps for separate genders)
• What is normal is sexual contact and sexual games with same
gendered friends. This can range to
• Girls will kiss more and boys don’t. It allows children to experiment
sexually with a trusted friend in a safe environment before they go on
to experiment with the other gender. These activities are motivated
by their curiosity, exploration and reassurance of their own
sexual identity, body image and sexual orientation. Their
behaviors as children in homosexual nature are NOT a
determinant of sexual orientation in adults. Example of
reassurance of their own sexual identity (think of two young
boys looking at pictures of girls with big boobs and seeing that