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Sexual behavior differs depending on a child or adolescent's age and stage of development. Some sexual behavior, however, can be a problem for the child/adolescent or for others. While it is important to understand the sexual development of children, it is also important to understand sexual behaviors that are of concern, are problematic, and/or need intervention. When children or adolescents act out, it may be that they have experienced some kind of sexual abuse. The behavior may be in response to trauma that has not been dealt with, or they may act out because it gives them a sense of control over the trauma. Whatever the reason, the behavior needs attention. The following is a list of sexual behaviors that may require an adult response, correction, or may be illegal and require immediate intervention.

Behavior that requires adult response:

  • Sexual preoccupation/anxiety that interferes with daily functioning
  • Pornographic interest
  • Promiscuity/multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually aggressive themes/obscenities
  • Sexual graffiti that is chronic or affects others
  • Embarrassment of others with sexual themes
  • Violation of other's body space, such as pulling down pants, pulling up shirt
  • Single occurrence of peeping, exposing, or frottage (rubbing against others as a sexual gesture)

Behavior that requires correction and may require professional help:

  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Degradation/humiliation of self or others with sexual themes
  • Attempting to expose other's genitals
  • Chronic preoccupation with sexually aggressive pornography
  • Sexually explicit conversation with significantly younger children
  • Touching genitals without permission (grabbing, "goosing")
  • Sexually explicit threats, either verbal or written

Illegal behavior that requires immediate intervention:

  • Obscene phone calls, voyeurism, exhibitionism, frottage, or sexual harassment
  • Sexual contact with someone with a significant age difference (Differential in size, power, popularity, or intellect may also play a part.)
  • Forced sexual contact (sexual assault)
  • Forced penetration (rape)
  • Sexual contact with animals
  • Genital injury to others

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Juvenile Sexualized Behavior: Overview  Juvenile Sexualized Behavior: Normal Behaviors versus Abuse  Juvenile Sexualized Behavior: Abnormal Behaviors  Juvenile Sexualized Behavior: Responding to Behaviors  Juvenile Sexualized Behavior: Additional Resources 

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