Children and sexuality : "Normal" sexual behaviour and experiences in childhood
Sammanfattning: Child sexual behaviour has until recently remained largely unexplored in Sweden, despite theoretical interest in normal childhood sexuality. Issues about sexual abuse and its consequencies has, however, created a need for research on developmentally "normal" sexual behaviour and experiences among boys and girls, while growing up.The overall purpose of the present thesis was to gain knowledge about sexual behaviour and experiences before adolescence, in normative groups of children in contemporary Sweden. The empirical work consists of five papers based on three separate quantitative studies. Two studies include preschool children (n=251 and n=185, and a sample from the USA, n=467) with questionnaires to parents and preschool staff. The thesis is also addressing adult views on child sexuality. One study focus on childhood sexual experiences up until the age of 13 (n=269), in which young adults (18-20 years old) answered questionnaires about solitary, mutual and nonconsensual childhood sexual activities.A wide range of sexually related behaviour was observed, most of which was developmentally related. Parents reported more sexual behaviour in their children compared to preschool teachers' reports. Adult-like sexual behaviour, and behaviour of intrusive character, were extremely rare in the preschool children. Gender differences were explored and found on some aspects and there was a correlation between reported behaviour and family factors. A Swedish sample of preschool children's' behaviour according to parental reports, was compared to a similar sample from the USA, and similarities as well as cultural differences were found.In self-reports from students, solitary experiences and mutual sexual activities together with a same-aged friend were common before adolescence. Non-consensual sexual activities, with same-aged children was relatively common. In other cases the non-consensual experiences happened together with an older teenager, or with an adult.The results provide an incipient frame of reference for further studies on child sexual behaviour in Sweden. Observable behaviour is one very important factor to consider when clinicians and other child-care professionals are to make assessments of a child's developmental status and situation, and knowledge in this area therefore holds importantimplications. Child sexuality need to be addressed within paediatrics and child psychiatry, as well as in social work, not only in terms of risk andeffects after abuse, but also as an integral part of healthy child development.
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