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Chapter 10

CHAPTER 10- Sexuality and the Life Cycle

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Psychology 2075
William Fisher

  1   C HAPTER 10:SEXUALITY &T HE L IFEC YCLE :C HILDHOOD &A DOLESCENCE Introduction: - This chapter is based on the lifespan (life-cycle), approach to understanding the development of our sexual behaviour throughout the course of our lives. - Most of the data come from surveys in which adults are questioned. - Self-report data thus may be subject to reporting biases & forgetting. - Recent innovation – the use of a talking computer to interview children (uses headphones & a keyboard). - This process preserves confidentiality, even when others are present, because only the child knows the question. - The studies of child & adolescent sexual behaviour have all been surveys that have either questionnaires or interviews (no systematic, direct observation). - Youth from ethno cultural minorities are influenced by the sexual attitudes, expectations, and parenting practices of their family & community. - Also influenced by the dominant Canadian culture as well as by the behaviour of their peers from the majority culture (a source of conflict between parents & children). INFANCY (0TO 2Y EARS ) - Before 1890, it was thought sexuality appeared at puberty. - Sigmund Freud discovered that children (in fact, infants) have sexual urges & engage in sexual behaviour. - Male infants get erections & are sometimes born with erections. - Reflex erections occur in the make fetus & vaginal lubrication has been found in baby girls in the 24 hours after birth. - The highly physiological & emotionally charged first encounters of parent & infant play an indispensable part in the development process. Self-Stimulation: - Infants are often observed fondling their own genitals. - Rhythmic manipulation of the genitals associated with adult masturbation does not occur until age 2 and a half to 3 years. - Orgasms from self-stimulation are possible even at this early stage (boys are not capable of ejaculation before puberty). - Self-stimulation is a normal, natural form of sexual expression in infancy. - Infants with optimal maternal relationships were more likely to stimulate their genitals. Infant-Infant Sexual Encounters: - Children may kiss, hug, pat, stroke, and gaze at each other, behaviours that are part of erotic intimacy later in life. Non-Genital Sensual Experiences: - Some infants are cuddlers & some are non-cuddlers. - Cuddlers enjoy physical contact, while non-cuddlers show displeasure and restlessness when they are handled or held.   2   Attachment: - A psychological bond that forms between an infant & mother, father, or other caregiver. - Quality of the relationship with the parents at this age can be very important to the child’s capacity for later sexual & emotional relationships. - The bond begins in the hours immediately following birth & continues throughout the period of infancy. - Facilitated by cuddling & other forms of physical contact (later, attachments form to other familiar people). - Affects the person’s capacity for emotional attachment in adulthood. - Recent research with humans indicates that adults’ styles of romantic attachment are similar to the kinds of attachment they remember having with their parents in childhood. Knowing about Boy-Girl Differences: - By age 2 and a half or 3, children know what gender they are (first step in developing a gender identity). - Motivates them to be like other members of that group. - By age three there may be some awareness of differences in the genital region and increasing interest in the genitals of other children. - At ages 4 to 6 ideas about gender are very rigid. E ARLY CHILDHOOD (3TO 7Y EARS ) - Marked increase in sexual interest & activity. Masturbation: - Children increasingly gain experience with masturbation during childhood. - In a study of 1,114 children ages 2 to 5: mothers of 60% of the boys & of 44% of the girls reported that the child touched his or her genitals. - 43% of girls and 71% of the boys touched his or her own genitals at home, 18% of the girls & 28% of the boys used their hand to masturbate (Swedish Study). - Children also learn during this period that masturbation is something that one does in private. Mixed-Sex Behaviour: - By the age of 4 or 5, children’s sexuality has become more social. - 64% of girls & 65% of the boys had looked at another child’s genitals; 20% of the girls & 34% of the boys had shown their genitals to other children. - By about the age of five, children have formed a concept of marriage (at least its non- genital aspects. - Know that a member of the other gender is the socially appropriate marriage partner & are committed to marrying when they get older. - Primal experience: children seeing or hearing their parents engage in sexual intercourse. - Freud believed that this experience could inhibit the child’s subsequent psychosexual development; some contemporary writers share this belief. Same-Sex Behaviour: - During late childhood & preadolescence, sexual play with members of one’s own   3   gender may be more common than sexual play with members of the other gender. - Normal part of sexual development. Sex Knowledge & Interests: - At age 3 or 4, children begin to have some notion that there are genital differences between males & females, but their ideas are very vague. - By age 7, 30% percent of North American children understand what the differences are. - At age 3, children are very interested in different postures for urinating. - At age 4, children are particularly interested in bathrooms & elimination. - In the rare society that puts no restrictions on childhood sex play, intercourse may occur as young as six or seven. - Important to remember that children’s sex play at this age is motivated largely by curiosity and is part of the general learning experiences of childhood. - Longitudinal study: 47% of mothers reported that their child had engaged in interactive sex play at the age of 6  there was no significant differences between male & female adolescents whose mothers reported such play, and those whose mothers did not report such activity. P READOLESCENCE (8 TO 12Y EARS ) - Period of transition between the years of childhood and the years of puberty & adolescence. - Freud used the term “latency” to refer to the preadolescent period following the resolution of the Oedipus complex (believed that sexual urges go underground in latency are not expressed). - Freud was wrong – children’s interests in & expression of sexuality remain lively throughout this period. - Around age 9 or 10, the first bodily changes of puberty begin. - Growth of pubic hair occurs in response to adrenarche, the maturation of the adrenal glands, leading to increasing levels of androgens. - The average age at which attraction to another person is reported is ten years old. - May reflect the maturation of the adrenal gland & the increases in testosterone & estradiol (a steroid responsible for the development of female reproductive organs) that result. - First experience of sexual attraction may lead the child to consider his or her sexual orientation. Masturbation: - During preadolescence, more & more children gain experience with masturbation. - In a sample of university women, 40% recalled masturbating before puberty. - The comparable figure for men was 38%. - Boys generally start masturbating earlier than girls do. - 42% of the boys & 20% of the girls reported masturbating to orgasm by age 12; an additional 27% of the boys & 18% of the girls reported masturbating without orgasm (Swedish study). - Boys & girls learn about masturbation in different ways: typically boys are told about it by their male peers, they see their peers doing it, or they read about it; girls most frequently learn about masturbation through accidental self-discovery.   4   Mixed-Sex Behaviour: - Generally little sexual behaviour with the other gender during the preadolescent period, mainly because of the social division of males & females into separate groups. - In a sample of adult women, 61% recalled having learned about intercourse by age 12. - Children’s reactions to this new information are an amusing combination of shock and disbelief – particularly disbelief that their parents would do such a thing. - 80% of Swedish high school students reported having a consensual sexual experience with another child when they were 6 to 12 years old. - The most common activities were talking about sex, kissing & hugging, looking at pornographic videos, and teasing other children sexually. - 57% of the boys reported such experiences with girls, 11% with another boy, & 33% with both boys & girls. - For girls, the percentages were 31 with a boy, 29 with a girl, & 40 with both. - Sexual experiences are very common, especially at ages 11 & 12, & involve consensual experiences with boys & girls. - The age at which youth have their first consensual sexual intercourse experience has been declining. - 9% of the women & 16% of the men reported oral-genital contact, 3% of both reported inserting objects in the anus, 18% of the women & 22% of the men reported inserting objects into the vagina, & 2% of the women & 5% of the men reported having vaginal intercourse prior to entering high school. - 5% of male adolescents and 1% of female adolescents in Canada report that they had engaged in sexual intercourse by the age of 12. - The majority of Canadians first engage in intercourse between the ages of 16 & 19. - Canadian youth who engage in intercourse during preadolescence are more likely to report a poor relationship with their parents, having experienced pressure to engage in unwanted sex, having used drugs other than marijuana, and believing that they must break the rules to be popular. Same-Sex Behaviour: - A normal part of the sexual development of children. - Gender-segregated social organization: a general form of social grouping in which males play & associate with other males, and females play & associate with other females; that is, the genders are separate from each other. - At ages 12 – 13 children are simultaneously the most segregated by gender and the most interested in members of the other gender. - Given that children are socializing with other members of their own gender, sexual exploring at this age is likely to be with partners of the same gender. - These activities generally involve masturbation, exhibitionism, and the fondling of other’s genitals. - A study of psychosexual development among lesbian, gay & bisexual youth ages 14 to 21 found that the participants reported their first experience of sexual attraction at age 10 or 11. - First sexual activity with another person occurred on average at age 12 or 13. Dating & Romantic Relationships: - Around age 10 or 11, children begin to spend time in mixed-gender or heterosexual   5   groups. - In these mixed group settings youth typically experience dyadic pairings & their first romantic or sexual behaviours. - 70% of boys & 77% of girls said that they had a boyfriend or girlfriend. - At age 13, the figures were 82% for the boys & 85% for the girls – many of these relationships were short lived (New Brunswick study). - Survey of 12- & 13-year-olds in the US found that about half of the 13-year-olds had held hands, kissed, or hugged. - Fewer than 10% had engaged in genital fondling or intercourse; these youths were more likely to report going out on dates alone (without friends). - Most lesbian & gay youth do not date those they are most attracted to out of very real fear of harassment from their peers. - Many date partners of the other gender to conform to societal expectations. Sexualization of Children: - Sexualization occurs when: • a person’s values come only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour; • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy; • a person is sexually objectified; • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. - Imposed upon them at a time when it may have wide-ranging effects. - Sexualization of girls involves cultural contributions, including sexualized representations of girls & women on TV & the Internet, in movies, MTV, cartoons, magazines, & sports media. - The cultural contribution also involves sexualized products – dolls, toys, books, & clothing. - Boys are exposed to TV shows, videogames, & movies that often include messages that boys & men should have “buff” bodies, be physically powerful & always ready to fight. & that for men sexual pleasure involves aggression & domination of beautiful women. - Intrapersonal contribution – when girls are treated like sexual objects by family, friends, teachers & other adults. - “Fat talk” – concern about a girl’s weight & appearance can create a self-consciousness that can be debilitating. - Many girls & women engage in self-sexualization, including purchasing clothing & undergoing cosmetic surgery before they are physically mature. - Sexualization may lead to reduced self-esteem, impaired cognitive functioning & physical performance, anxiety about appearance in interaction with others, body-image dissatisfaction, & reduced educational & occupational aspirations. - Viewing oneself as a sexual object may lead young people to initiate sexual intimacy, to engage in unwanted sexual activity & relationships, & to engage in risky sexual behaviour. - To counteract sexualization within the schools, we can provide media literacy training programs, a broader range of athletic opportunities, & a broad-based sexuality education. - Within the family, we can encourage parents to watch TV & movies & to navigate the Internet with children, commenting on appropriate & inappropriate content. - Creating girl empowerment groups to support girls in a variety of ways can be very effective.   6   - Activism & resistance, such as campaigning against companies that use sexualized images to sell products or specifically target children & teens. A DOLESCENCE (13 TO 19Y EARS ) - Heightened sexuality may be caused by a number of factors, including bodily changes & an awareness of them, rises in the levels of sex hormones, & increased cultural emphasis on sex. - We can see evidence of this heightened sexuality particularly in the data on masturbation. - For boys, testosterone levels had a very strong relationship to sexual activity. - Sexually permissive attitudes, a social variable, were related to sexuality among boys although they had a much smaller effect than testosterone did. - For girls, the relationship between testosterone level & sexual activity was not as strong as it was for boys, but it was a significant relationship, & it was testosterone not estrogen or progesterone that was related to sexuality. - Pubertal development (developing a curvy figure) had an effect, probably by increasing the girl’s attractiveness. - The effects of testosterone were accentuated among girls in father-absent families. - Social variables (such as permissive attitudes, father absence for girls, & church attendance) seem to interact with the biological effects, in some cases magnifying them & in some cases suppressing them. - A study with gay & lesbian youth found that increases in hormone levels with puberty resulted in increases in homoerotic sexual feelings & behaviours. - Cognitive changes mediate the effects of these biological changes on sexual behaviour. - Girls who initiated sexual intimacy had weaker abstinence values, & lower arousability & sexual self-esteem scores. - These measures of cognitive readiness were in turn related to reports of greater sexual feelings & competency than age-mates who did not feel ready. Masturbation: - There is a sharp increase in the incidence of masturbation for boys between the ages of 13 & 15 (Kinsey Data). - By age 15, 82% of the boys in Kinsey’s study had masturbated. - Many girls also begin masturbating in adolescence – but do not begin till later. - 80% of male students & 48 % of female students reported masturbating at least once (UBC study). - Asian students were significantly less likely to report masturbating than were non-Asian students -_-. - Being in a satisfying sexual relationship did not affect how likely one was to report masturbation. - On average, female students reported masturbation 3 times a month & male students about 8 times a month (German study). - More recent data indicate that children & adolescence begin to masturbate earlier today (particularly true of girls). th - Attitudes toward masturbation underwent a dramatic change in the 20 century. - Adolescents now given much different information about masturbation than were earlier   7   adolescents, & this may affect both their behaviour & their feelings about masturbation. - In short, masturbation was once believed to cause ev
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