Psychosexual development in middle childhood

During the middle years of childhood, children usually go about in groups of the same sex, and make their main friendships with their own sex, and for this reason these years are often thought of as a sexually dormant time. In fact, as demonstrated by many of the playground games and conversational topics of school-age children, this is not so. On the contrary, this is a time of growing sexual interest and awareness. Sex talk, dirty jokes and boy-girl games such as kiss-chase are common. Children are intensely curious about each other’s bodies, especially if they have no siblings of the opposite sex. Parents should not be shocked if they discover their children playing games of the doctor-and-nurse variety that involve mutual undressing and examination; they are a common and normal way of satisfying this intense curiosity. Most children play with their genitals. Even if mastur- bation is difficult to accept because of their own upbringing, parents ought not make their children feel it is something to be cither guilty or ashamed about. Masturbation is the normal, completely harmless and almost universal way in which children find out about their own body and sexuality.