Child, Family, Kids News, Parenting, Puberty, Relation and Sexuality

sexual development of children

sexual development of children

Important developmental steps in the sexual development of children

In the course of childhood and adolescence, adolescents discover their bodies with great interest. Childhood sexual development is thus a fundamental preliminary stage of later sexuality as an adult. With an appropriate sense of their bodies, a solid emotional basis and a secure approach to sexuality, children later experience pleasurable and fulfilling moments as adults. The foundation is therefore laid in childhood.

Curiosity about one’s own body in infancy and early childhood

As soon as a child celebrates its second birthday, it already recognizes that girls and boys differ in appearance. The question of the exact differences arises and the interest in the sexual organs of others sets in. By then, even as an infant, the child explores his own body, the penis or vagina taken.

The positive feeling acquired leads even infants to playfully manipulate their genitals and enjoy the feeling of nudity. Boys often display this more intensely than girls. Even if it seems strange to parents when, for example, their son already has an erection as a baby, this developmental phase is completely normal and healthy.

By the age of three, children seek explanations for the differences between men and women, and they give their genitals a name.

Parents should support their child in naming the body parts correctly from the very beginning. Playful sexual manipulation of girls as well as boys are by no means aberrations.

Nevertheless, it is in the interest of children and parents to explain to adolescents that behavior is undesirable in certain situations, such as in a restaurant or while guests are present. Children of this age do understand such rules.

Around the age of four, they also assign secondary gender characteristics to males and females. Long hair, earrings, and clothing help children distinguish gender roles. Now the child will also ask the famous question, “Where do babies come from, anyway?”.


Finding gender roles in preschool and elementary school

Even as preschoolers, girls and boys know the differences between men and women very well. They are proud to be able to assign themselves and identify with this. Accordingly, they openly show their sexual organs, which is within the scope of completely normal sexual development, but often shocks parents. At the age of 5 to 6, children begin to discover their first “doctor games”. Childlike curiosity now prompts adolescents to explore the sexual organs of their peers. They explore similarities or differences, such as size, skin color and expression.

This gives them a great deal of self-knowledge, which in turn is of considerable importance for their later sexuality. As girls and boys acquire more and more experience and factual knowledge, shame and embarrassment also grow. Sexual taboos instilled in them by society further unsettle children. They test out how their environment reacts to sexual innuendos. Obscene words, provocative jokes or “clearly ambiguous” remarks are inevitable.

Added to this is the fact that the first hormones of the prepubescent phase are already released during the elementary school years and interest in the opposite sex grows. By their twelfth birthday, many girls experience menarche (first period) and are thus sexually mature. Now they could theoretically already become pregnant. (Puberty in girls) Boys usually experience their first ejaculation by then. (Puberty in boys) Due to the widespread uncertainty, children often try to obtain answers through the media. Especially at this time, trustworthy education by parents is a valuable and indispensable companion for children.

Puberty and first sexual experiences in boys and girls

According to the Federal Center for Health Education, which surveyed 3542 young people in its study “Youth Sexuality 2010,” more than half of teenagers had already had sexual intercourse by their 17th birthday. This is hardly surprising, since the pubescent bodies of boys are flooded with the sex hormone testosterone and those of girls with estrogens. The psychological as well as physical changes lead to the fact that also sexually much changes.

Erotic fantasies and dreams, masturbation, kissing, petting and sexual intercourse are among the things that occupy children and adolescents. In times of media networking, teenagers often draw information on these topics from the Internet or television. In terms of healthy sexual development, it is also incumbent on parents in this context to educate them about the reality and commercialization of images on the Internet. It is not uncommon for teens to acquire a completely glorified image of gender roles and the sexuality of women and men as a result of misinformation.

Child sexuality and abuse

The topic of “abuse” plays an important role in the sexual development of children and in the education of girls and boys. Parents should support their children in allowing or refusing to be touched and teach them at an early age which touches are taboo or okay. Indications of sexual abuse are usually difficult to interpret at first. Often the abnormalities are aggressive behavior or complete withdrawal of the children. Precocious or completely inappropriate sexual behavior could also indicate abuse.

Sometimes the children act out their experiences with their dolls, such as inserting objects into the vagina or anus. Sometimes, however, the children do not show any changes in their behavior. It is not uncommon for young people in particular to underestimate the danger of abuse. Irresponsible handling of their own data on social platforms or an extremely permissive style of dress are just two examples in this context. If sexual abuse is suspected, a counseling center or the youth welfare office can provide assistance, which should be accepted in the interest of the child.


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