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Child Abuse

Indentifying Inappropriate Behavior



What do you think about this behavior as described to me by an old friend? While visiting her son and his family, her 2& 1/2 year old grand-daughter frequently played outside and inside with no clothes on. My friend`s grandson and his friends were home, in and out and observing the little girl. Additionally, the little girl got sand on her bottom etc and Mom brushed the sand away, brushed the "vulva" which child seemed to enjoy and made a comment about how beautiful the child was. The grandmother felt the behavior of Mom and Dad was inappropriate, but was not sure if she was over reacting or being an "old fogey (sp)". What do you think? Where does "inappropriate", abuse etc begin? Thank you!


None of the behaviors described here are clearly inappropriate. Each family has their own definitions for what is acceptable dress, play, etc. The child in question is young, and it is part of normal development for many young children to enjoy playing without clothes on. Behaviors that are typically considered to be sexually abusive are those behaviors where an adult (or older child) manipulates a younger child for the purpose of sexual pleasure/gratification. It would not be unreasonable for the grandmother to discuss these issues openly with the parents of the child, expressing her concerns about the appropriateness of these behaviors without being accusatory. Answered by: Neha Mehta, MD

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Response by:

Robert Shapiro, MD
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati