It is important for mothers
to understand the normal sexual development of children to be able to differentiate age-appropriate behaviors from Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse
. Hanks (1997) describes the normal development of children at different ages, their sexual knowledge base, and behaviors.
Normal development, behavior, and knowledge in children birth to 2 years old:
- Physical: Potential for sexual arousal with male penile erection and female vaginal lubrication.
- Social: Pleasure when touching genitals or looking at and touching genitals of others.
- Sexual knowledge: Limited.
Normal development, behavior, and knowledge in children 2-6 years old:
- Physical: Testicles descend. Potential for sexual arousal with male penile erection and female vaginal lubrication.
- Social: Play "doctor" games and explores body parts with other children, masturbates, watches others using bathroom, practices kissing
- Sexual knowledge: Little understanding. Learns names for body parts and some sexual behaviors.
Normal development, behavior, and knowledge in children 6-12 years old:
- Physical: Onset of puberty including menstruation, wet dreams.
- Social: Masturbation, simulates some sexual behaviors, may have intercourse.
- Sexual knowledge: Has increased knowledge of sexual behaviors and sexual language. Knowledge of slang terminology. Unclear about sexual intercourse and pregnancy.
Sexual behaviors that are considered to be normal in juveniles:
- Alone: Masturbation, wet dreams.
- With peers: Kissing, petting, masturbation, simulated intercourse, intercourse.
Johnson (1994) described "red flag" sexual behaviors including:
- Children are different ages and at different developmental stages.
- Children have too much sexual knowledge.
- Behaviors continue even though requested repeatedly to stop.
- Child unable to stop behaviors.
- Behaviors occur in public places
- Behavior is targeted at adults.
- Progressive frequency and intrusiveness.
- Persistent adult-like sexual behaviors.
- Sexual behavior with animals.
- Sexualizing objects, relationships, or communication.
- Causing physical pain.
- Using sex to hurt someone else.
- Anger is involved with sexual behavior.
- Use of force, bribery or threats.