Have you found yourself in a situation with your child where you didn’t know whether or not to be worried about something? For example, imagine that you have a one-year-old boy. You’re excited for your child to start talking, so you talk to him all the time in hopes that the more you talk, the more he’ll talk. By the time he’s 18 months old, he only knows a handful of words and it’s usually a bit difficult to understand what he says. You have so many questions: Is your son learning to talk as quickly as he should be? When it comes to language development, is he on track compared to other kids? Is there anything to be worried about? Do you need to do anything different?

You probably often find yourself in situations like this where you have a lot of questions. Being a parent can feel like it comes with a steep (and sometimes overwhelming) learning curve. It can be challenging to know the best way to respond if you don’t know whether or not something your child does is typical or atypical. We want to tell you about some common behaviors associated with development and sexuality in infants to help guide your responses to your child. Of course, you know your child and their needs better than anyone, but these are some typical behaviors that aren’t cause for concern.

  • Discovering Genitals

    Boys become aware of their penis at six to eight months. Girls become aware of their vulva at ten to eleven months.

  • involuntary genital responses

    Erections occur in boys and lubrication occurs in girls. These responses aren’t related to sexual arousal but are simply reflexes that occur in the genitals.

  • exploring their bodies by touch

    Children are curious about their bodies, and much of their learning at this stage occurs through touch. As a result, children will often touch their genitals, especially during diaper changes. Touching genitals is often used as a form of self-soothing at this age.

  • desire for physical affection

    Infants need and want physical contact. They like to be held, hugged, kissed, and snuggled. Physical affection helps infants feel safe and secure and lays a foundation for healthy intimacy throughout life.

  • saying they'd like to be the opposite sex

    It’s not uncommon for infants to say they’d like to be the opposite sex. This desire is usually rooted in a close friendship or wanting to be like someone they like. It is typically not an indication of gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • understanding the difference between male and female

    Before the age of two, children begin to understand that there is a difference between boys and girls, and they begin to identify as male or female.

There will always be confusing parenting moments when you wish you had a perfect answer, but at least you can gather as much information as possible. Accurate information empowers you to understand and respond to your child’s behavior, as well as allowing you to know what’s typical and what might be a red flag.


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