In as much as every infant is naturally endowed with physical, cognitive, linguistic and social faculties at and even before birth, even so is it endowed with inherent sexual dispositions which of necessity are bound to develop as the infant grows to adulthood.
It is crucial; therefore, that parents and caregivers should not turn a blind eye towards childhood sexuality, rather they need to ensure a supportive and thriving environment in which these innate sexual endowments would be nurtured for the child’s healthy sexual development. Irrespective of individual differences in children, some common sexual behaviors are exhibited in each of the distinct childhood stages of development.
The infantile sexual stage of a child is marked by tender curiosity and inquisitiveness about the uniqueness of their bodily physique, the wonder of noticing the sexual difference between males and females in the social world around the infant.
Generally, after birth, the infant explores its body parts through touch and fondle, best observed when baby is being nursed (McHenry, 2009). Such genital reactions as erections as it is case with a boy child and vaginal lubrication as evident for a girl child are the key features in this stage- it is arguable that the inception of these responses occurs even before birth.
At the early childhood stage, the baby’s curiosity is heightened; he/she is sensitized about sexual stimulation and thus establishes his/her gender identity (Rich, 2002).
This phase is marked by an increased awareness of gender differences as evident in varied spontaneous childhood games as playing mother-daddy, doctor-patient and teacher-pupil games. The child at this stage begins asking objective sexually oriented and self-searching queries as ‘Where did I come from?’ resulting to a greater appreciation of his/her sexual endowments.
The preadolescence stage is characterized by active sex play with a progressive awareness about sexually related issues as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the like. It is also evident in this stage that same-sex social group associations are developed and children assume respective gender roles. At the very threshold of puberty, children maintain a reserved but objective personal privacy coupled with heightened autonomy poses the delicate challenge of steering the child’s sexual life to its desired haven.
The child at this stage is exposed to the reality of the sexual world through the use of media and interaction with both the community and peers, thus his/her sexual inclination takes the form of identifying and courteously dating a opposite sex child of the same age (Guy, 2006). Although, parent involvement should be maintained throughout the child’s sexual life, it should take the center stage at this delicate and fragile phase of the child’s sexual development by engaging the child in open discussions on healthy sexual matters.
At the adolescence stage, the child’s sexual faculties are fully developed and there is an increased desire to date and fall in love. This is primarily triggered by increased peer pressure, inherent sexual drive with a fully fledged sexual system and the reserved societal controversies of the ideal sexual expectation/outlook (McHenry, 2009).
Physical and emotional maturity, coupled with a deepened intimacy usher the adolescent child to the characteristic sexual romance of dating, kissing and in some situations sexual intercourse as evident in this stage. Of necessity, therefore, parents would need to accord social support and accommodation in honoring adolescent privacy and nurture the development of the child’s assertive and decision-making proficiency.
Guy, J. (2006). What is normal childhood sexual development? Retrieved February 19,
2011, from, http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_What_Normal/
McHenry, D. (2009). Sexual Development and Behavior in Children. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from,
Rich, P. (2002). Child Sexual Behaviours: What is Considered “Normal” Sexual
Development and Behavior? Retrieved February 19, 2011, from, http://www.selfhelpmagazine.com/article/child_sexual_behavior