Sexualised behaviour and gender issues
The nature of the behaviour, the child’s associated problems and the level of parental supervision may help decide. It is only too easy to miss sexual abuse that presents initially as a relatively benign behaviour; or worry excessively about behaviours that seem to indicate abuse but actually have a more innocent explanation. Sexualised behaviours that follow sexual abuse have been studied in a longitudinal New Zealand study. This study suggests that being a female victim of child sexual abuse before the age of 16 years is likely to lead to the following behaviours in the age range 14–18 years: teenage pregnancy, unprotected intercourse and multiple sexual partners. Whilst sexuality is an important component of physical and mental health, sexualised images in the media are commonplace and children are exposed to messages and materials from a very young age. Self-stimulation of the genitals is common in both sexes in preschool children.