Go Beyond the Webinar| Understanding Children’s Sexual Knowledge and Behavior from a Development Perspective

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On September 16th, 2021, MFLN Family Development hosted our latest webinar in the Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth Series entitled “Understanding Children’s Sexual Knowledge and Behavior from a Developmental Perspective.” This webinar was another great installment in our Sexual Behavior in Children & Youth (SBCY) Series, which has been ongoing since May 2019, with plans to continue on into 2022.

The goals of this webinar focused on covering typical social, emotional, cognitive, and moral development in preschool (age 5 and under) and school-age (age 6 to 12) children and how development across these domains informs expected sexual knowledge and behavior. Typical sexual knowledge and behavior within these age ranges were discussed as well as protective and supportive methods to help promote healthy sexual development. Factors impacting the development of problematic sexual behavior were also discussed as well as methods to return a child to healthy sexual development.

We were joined in this webinar by Dr. Benjamin Sigel, a Licensed Psychologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University. His areas of expertise include assessment and treatment of children with a history of experiencing trauma and children with problematic sexual behavior.

Webinar Highlights

We wanted to share some of the highlights from this webinar session that are beneficial for service providers and continue to provide strategies and resources when working specifically with military children and families.

  • We began this webinar by going over general childhood development for preschool-aged children including areas of cognition, speech and language, improved motor skills, and increased social development with peers. This then leads to typical sexual development for these age groups with the focus on curiosity, exploring gender roles, and self-touch.
  • Dr. Sigel then goes into appropriate ways for parents to teach children, up through six years of age, about sexual development like using accurate names for private parts, rules about personal boundaries, and differences between “okay” and “not okay” touch from others.
  • We then talk about the ways sexual development and having these conversations change as a child gets older, on up to 12 years old, and pre-puberty. Things to teach to this age group include social aspects of sexuality, rules, and firm explanations of what sexual abuse can look like and ways kids can stay safe.
  • Dr. Sigel then goes on to explain how problematic sexual behavior can develop including contributing factors like family adversity, models of coercion, modeling of sexuality, and individual vulnerabilities.
  • He then talks over common misconceptions about children with PSB and how it develops.
  • Finally, we wrap up talking over therapy and evidence-based treatment options, with a focus on coping with trauma.

Archived Viewing and CE Credit Info

If you missed the live event, you can watch the archived recording on our YouTube channel on the event page, “Understanding Children’s Sexual Knowledge and Behavior from a Developmental Perspective.” Free Continuing Education Credits for this event are still available for licensed social workers, professional counselors, case managers, certified family life educators, and family therapists. The Case Management CE credits are available through September 2022 and the UT Social Work CE credits through September 2023.

And be sure and join us for our next SBCY Series webinar coming up on October 7th, 2021, entitled “Culturally Competent Responses to Youth with Problematic Sexual Behavior.” Be sure and RSVP for the live event and thank you for your continued support in this fantastic ongoing webinar series.