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Normal and Interrupted Sexual Development

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal sexual behaviors and when it is time to be concerned.  Below you will find a breakdown of childhood development and what is  considered to be normal and interrupted sexual development.

Age: Birth to 18 months

Normal Sexual Development

  • Boys have penile erections and girls lubricate shortly after birth
  • Do not differentiate genitals from rest of body
  • Will explore all parts of their body they can reach
  • Need to be touched

Development Interrupted By Sexual Abuse

  • Will be difficult to comfort due to fear of physical injuries
  • Eating, sleeping and bowel movement disturbances


  • Frequent urinary tract infections from abuser
  • Rashes or itching on genital area
  • Symptoms of venereal disease, such as vaginal or penile discharge, genital or oral sore
  • Pain in the genital area from rips or abrasions
  • Genital warts
  • Children who have been anally penetrated often have problems with: fecal impaction, renal retention, diarrhea, spastic colon or constipation
  • Children who have been orally penetrated may engage in gagging, spitting, vomiting, nausea and stomach aches
  • Fear of physical harm
  • May reject food that resembles ejaculate: vanilla ice cream, tapioca or cream of wheat

Appropriate Response

  • Healthy touching, rocking
  • Treat injuries
  • Protect from abuser
  • Educate non-offending parent

Age 18 months - 18 years

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