Ages and stages-age appropriate sexual behaviour

Children may behave in sexual ways because they have been sexually abused, have been over exposed to sexualised material, have witnessed sexual behaviours, or have experienced other emotional difficulties.

Children are often confused by what they have experienced and are unsure about what is appropriate behaviour. However, if you are concerned about a child’s behaviour do not ignore it. Do not assume that a child will grow out of it, or that the behaviour will correct itself. Stay calm and set a boundary around the concerning behaviour and seek support and help about these issues from a specialist agency. Until you have sought advice from a specialist agency, make sure that your child or teenager is not left unsupervised with other children.

Remember that supporters need support too so ask your local specialist agencies for services that they can offer you.

Sexual play and behaviour is part of normal development and must be understood in the child’s social, cultural and familial context.

Children’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional development progresses at different rates. The developmental stage they have reached plays a big part in dictating their sexual play and behaviour.

Typical or expected sexual play or behaviour

Children’s sexual behaviour and play becomes a concern if:

0-4 years

Common

Uncommon

5-8 years

Common

Uncommon

9-12 years

Common

Uncommon

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