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Child Abuse

Childhood Experimentation or Signs of Abuse

09/16/2005

Question:

My four year old son said a six year old neighborhood boy put his mouth on his privates, front and back. This was new, we thought the only incident that had occured was catching the two of them with the younger one with his pants down. We just chalked that up to normal chidhood exploration. Then out of the blue comes this new information and the realization the pants-down incident was not a one time occurance. So at what age does normal "you show me yours, I show you mine" cross over into something else? I didn`t respond much to my 4 year old other than to tell him to avoid this boy (which we will facilitate) and to come get a grown-up if there is a problem. Thank you.

Answer:

Thanks for your question to Netwellness. We know that a lot of children do have normal sexual exploration. We recommend that parents periodically talk about safe and unsafe touches and give children strategies about who they could tell if they ever felt unsafe.

The specific behaviors that you describe go beyond showing and sound more like simulating sexual behavior. This is concerning. First, the potential exists that the 6 year old is a victim of sexual abuse and it may therefore by worthwhile to him to be evaluated. Second, the 6 year old is exposing your son and possibly other children to sexual behaviors that they may inappropriately copy.

You stated that you told your son to avoid this child and will facilitate that. You obviously are a concerned, proactive parent. If your son has told you that threats or coercion took place, we would suggest you report this to your local child protective services. You might also consider making a report so that the safety of the six year old can be assessed.

For more information:

Go to the Child Abuse health topic, where you can:

Response by:

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