Sexual Development

Understanding Child Sexual Development

Children pass through different stages of physical, emotional, cognitive, social, motor and sexual development as they grow. It is normal to expect that their awareness and curiosity about sexual matters change as they pass from infancy into childhood and then through puberty to adolescence.

Each child is an individual and will develop in his or her own way. However, there is a generally accepted range of behaviors linked to a child’s age and developmental stage. Sometimes these will involve some exploration with other children of similar age. It can be difficult to tell the difference between age appropriate sexual exploration and warning signs of harmful behavior. Below are some links to information that can be helpful in understanding what is natural and expected versus what is concerning.

Going Deeper

  1. Click HERE for a document summarizing growth & development (including sexual development) in children 0-3 years old.
  2. Click HERE for a document summarizing growth & development (including sexual development) in children 4-5 years old.
  3. Click HERE for an overview of healthy sexual development by age.
  4. Click HERE for green, yellow and red light sexual behaviors in children who have and have not been through puberty.
  5. Click HERE for a summary of sexual development & behavior in children, how to respond to sexual behaviors and how to educate children in a way that promotes healthy sexuality.
  6. Click HERE for a detailed overview of sexual development, sexual knowledge and sexual behavior by age. This site also includes a section on sexual play, the impact of culture and medial on sexual behaviors and other resources for caregiver/parents.
  7. Click HERE for a webinar titled Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviors – From Natural and Healthy to Disturbed, Instructor: Toni Cavanagh Johnson, Ph.D
  8. Click HERE for a Sexual Behaviors Traffic Light Tool from an organization out of the UK.
  9. Click HERE for a Continuum of Sexual Behaviors for Post-Pubescent Youth.