What is normal and Concerning Sexualised Behaviour

Normal Sexualised Behaviour?

  • Sexual responses are present from birth
  • A wide range of sexual behaviours are normal
  • Sexual development is influenced by family, social experiences, peer group, culture, biological factors and sexual experiences

For example, the 8-12 year old age group is a time of significant development including sexual development.

  • Curiosity about sexuality issues
  • Puberty
  • Increased peer contact
  • Experimenting
  • Acting out, showing off

The Service provides an initial assessment and intervention, if necessary, based on a continuum model of developmentally normal sexual behaviours.

 1.  Normal sexual exploration (in 5-12 year old children)

  • Age appropriate exploration
  • Sexual play – “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”
  •  “Playing doctor” “playing house”
  • Similar age and size, generally mixed gender, more often friends than “siblings”
  • Excited, giggly, rarely feel shame or fear
  • Children with special needs may develop at different rates
  • Differing backgrounds/cultures may have different expectations
  • Children explore each other’s bodies visually and involving touch, e.g. playing doctor, playing house. With guidance and good boundaries from safe role models children learn what behaviour is appropriate.
  • Has an innocence and curiosity about the play

Sexual behaviours may include:

  • Drawing genitals on human figures
  • Asking questions about sexual differences, puberty, pregnancy
  • Curiosity about nudity
  • May want to touch genitals, breasts and buttocks of other same aged children
  • Kissing familiar adults and children
  • Erections
  • Self soothing behaviour in private and for younger children may initially happen in public family setting however the child is responsive to being asked to stop.
  • Rubbing genitals against objects
  • Interest in breeding behaviour of animals
  • Interested in sex words and swearing, dirty jokes and sexual media

2.  Concerning sexualised behaviour

  • Behaviour that appears to be outside the normal range
  • Child appears to be preoccupied or obsessed by sexual behaviour
  • Behaviour out of balance with peer group
  • Sexual play is not mutual.

Sexual behaviours may include:

  • Drawing genitals in disproportionate size to body
  • Stares/sneaks to stare at nude persons
  • Wants to compare genitals with much older or much younger children or adults
  • Preoccupied with touching genitals, breasts, buttocks of other children (even when told not to)
  • Attempts to engage in oral, anal/vaginal sex
  • Excessive erections
  • Inserts objects in own or others genital/rectum
  • Touching genitals of animals
  • Persistent masturbation, particularly in public
  • Excessive interest and or preoccupation with sexual matters

 3.  Harmful sexual behaviour

  • Harmful sexual behaviour is complex
  • Behaviours go far beyond developmentally appropriate sexual exploration
  • Persist over time
  • Part of pattern rather than isolated events
  • Unable to stop without help
  • Impulsive, compulsive and aggressive
  • Feel anger, anxiety and confusion

Sexual behaviours may include:

  • Explicit sexual drawings
  • Plays male or female roles in a sad, angry or aggressive manner, hates own/other sex
  • Asks people to take off their clothes at times using force
  • Demands to see genitals/breasts/buttocks of children and adults
  • Forces other children into sexual touching
  • Forced oral, anal or vaginal sex
  • Sneaky sexual behaviour
  • Coercion or force used when inserting objects into genitals/rectum of others
  • Sexual behaviour with animals
  • Persistent masturbation particularly in public
  • Masturbates with objects
  • Excessive interest and/or preoccupation with sexual matters
  • Asks to watch sexually explicit TV, makes sexual sounds or imitates intercourse
    Harmful Sexual Behaviour involves:

    Force or Coercion:

    • Threats
    • Violence
    • Bribery (money,treats)
    • Trickery

    Lack of consent:

    • Compliance may not mean consent
    • Consent implies full knowledge, understanding and choice


    • Age Differences
    • Intellectual functioning
    • Emotional development
    • Knowledge/Life experiences
    • Power and Authority
    • Physical differences/size