Normal Sexual Behaviours

Sexual behaviours which are part of normal and healthy development and are:

  • spontaneous, curious, light hearted, easily diverted, enjoyable, mutual and consensual
  • appropriate to the child’s age and development
  • activities or play among equals in terms of age, size and ability levels
  • about understanding and gathering information, balanced with curiosity about other parts of life

These behaviours provide opportunities to talk, explain and support.

0 to 4 years

  • comfort in being nude
  • body touching and holding own genitals
  • unselfconscious masturbation
  • interest in body parts and functions
  • wanting to touch familiar children’s genitals during play, toilet or bath times
  • participation in make believe games involving looking at and/or touching the bodies of familiar children e.g. "show me yours and I’ll show you mine", playing ‘family’
  • asking about or wanting to touch the breasts, bottoms or genitals of familiar adults e.g. when in the bath

5 to 9 years

  • increased sense of privacy about bodies
  • body touching and holding own genitals
  • masturbation, usually with awareness of privacy
  • curiosity about other children’s genitals
  • involving looking at and/or touching the bodies of familiar children e.g. "show me yours and I’ll show you mine", playing ‘family’
  • curiosity about sexuality e.g. questions about babies, gender, relationships, sexual activity
  • telling stories or asking questions, using swear words, ‘toilet’ words or names for private parts
  • use of mobile phones and internet in relationships with known peers

10 to 13 years

  • growing need for privacy
  • masturbation in private
  • curiosity and seeking information about sexuality
  • use of sexual language
  • interest and/or participation in girlfriend or boyfriend relationships
  • hugging, kissing, touching with known peers
  • exhibitionism amongst same age peers within the context of play e.g. occasional flashing or mooning
  • use of mobile phones and internet in relationships with known peers

14 to 17 years

  • need for privacy
  • masturbation in private
  • accessing information about sexuality
  • viewing materials for sexual arousal e.g. music videos, magazines, movies
  • sexually explicit mutual conversations and/or use of humour and obscenities with peers
  • interest and/or participation in a one on one relationship with someone of the same or other sex
  • sexual activity with a partner of similar age and developmental ability (ability to consent must be considered)
  • use of mobile phones and internet in relationships with peers

 

Red sexual behaviours are problematic or harmful, forceful, secretive, compulsive, coercive or degrading signal the need to provide immediate protection and follow up support. Read more.
 

Orange sexual behaviours are outside normal behaviour in terms of persistence, frequency or inequality in age, power or ability signal the need to monitor and provide extra support. Read more.

 

Identify the behaviour
Understand the behaviour
Respond to address the child's needs

 

This content originally published by Family Planning Queensland. © 2012 Family Planning Queensland. Reprinted with permission.