Friday, April 08, 2005

Masturbation in Preschool children!

I recently had a 3 year old child from Canada. The parents that thier child had possibly a recurrent pinworm infection (as stated by their health care provider). On detailed questioning it was found that the child enjoyed rubbing her genitals againt any surface, as opposed to scratching with her fingers. This suggested a diagnosis of masturbation.
The following information is by Dr. Barton Schmitt, and taken from the Virtual hospital website. This may come as a shock, but it is estimated that almost 30% of toddlers and preschoolers masturbate. Masturbation is self-stimulation of the genitals for pleasure and self-comfort. It is a normal, healthy activity at any age. During masturbation, children usually rub themselves with their hands. Girls may rock against an object such as a stuffed animal or pillow. Children usually appear dazed, flushed, and preoccupied while they are masturbating. These children have discovered masturbation during normal exploration of their bodies and it continues because it feels good. Masturbation becomes frequent only if the child is pressured to stop. That invites a power struggle.
Try these approaches instead:
• First, set realistic goals. It's impossible to eliminate masturbation. All that you can control is where it occurs. Accept it in the bedroom or bathroom or at nap time.
• Second, ignore masturbation at naptime or at bedtime. Don't check on your child at these times.
• Third, distract your child from masturbation at other times. Try a toy or a new activity. If this fails, send your child to his room. You can't ignore it, or your child will feel he can masturbate anywhere. Your child will catch on to privacy and modesty somewhere between the ages of four and six.
• Fourth, be sure no one punishes your child for this. It's counterproductive.
• Finally, if you're having trouble accepting this normal behavior, talk with your child's doctor.
My suggestion:
Please remember that there is no sexual element in preschooler masturbation, it is just a pleasurable sensation generated by self-exploration, do not let your guilt, feeling about sex influence your atitude towards the child. Try to be nonchalant about the whole thing, and inform the child that it is inappropriate to carry out this activity in public. In a way, it would be equivalent to thumb-sucking or any similar activity that the child indulges in while he is bored or alone.
You can get more information about common pediatric disease at Charak Clinics


Anonymous said...

I hope there will be more topics like this to open the minds of many to lessen guilty feelings and topics like this will make many not to be hypocrite on this matter.

Anonymous said...

I am a preschool teacher and have a student this year that stimulates himself with a rolled up towel at naptime. In the 18 years that I have been working with four year olds I have never seen such intensity in a child when they are stimulating themselves. We placed his cot in an area in the room where the other students can't see him and just ignore his behavior. However, some of the staff feel this is not "normal". I have spoken to the students mom and she said he has been doing this since he was a year old and crawling. She does not know what to do and feels helpless. Does anyone have any suggestions or advice?

Dr. Gaurav Gupta M.D. said...

This is actually a normal behavior. For some kids this can be a very intense experience. I think allowing him to masturbate in private is actually a good idea.