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Sexually Reactive Behavior Counseling

The sexual behaviors of sexually reactive children are often fairly easy to stop, as they do not represent a long pattern of secret, manipulative, and highly charged behaviors. Sexually reactive children are pre-pubescent children who have been exposed to, or had direct contact with, inappropriate sexual activities, sexual behaviors, or relationships, and have then begun to engage in or initiate sexual or sexualized behaviors, activities, interactions, or relationships that include excessive sexual play, inappropriate sexual comments or gestures, mutual sexual activity with others, or sexual molestation and abuse of other children.

Age inappropriate sexual behaviors and interests in children aged 12 or younger who were earlier exposed to sexual experiences are often a reaction to those earlier sexual experiences. A child aged between 12 and 13 may also be considered sexually reactive if his inappropriate sexual behaviors follow exposure to a significant sexual experience occurring during the past 12 months. This term is not typically applied to adolescents aged 14 years or older (and rarely to adolescents 13 or older), even if their sexual behaviors began at an earlier time, as we hold teenagers more directly responsible for their behaviors.

Many sexually reactive children have been sexually abused; some have been exposed to explicit sexual materials; and some have lived in households where there has been too much overt sexuality. Young children, who watch excessive amounts of sexual content via television and videos, and who live in sexually explicit environments, may display a multitude of sexual behaviors. Some parents, who themselves may have been sexually and/or physically victimized, express their sexual needs and discuss their sexual problems too openly with their young children. This can over-stimulate and/or confuse their children. Some children are not able to integrate these experiences in a meaningful way. This can result in the child acting out his or her confusion in the form of more advanced or more frequent sexual behaviors, or heightened interest and/or knowledge beyond that expected for a child of that age. The sexual behaviors of these children often represent a repetition compulsion or a recapitulation (often unconscious) of previously over-stimulated sexuality or sexual victimization. The time between the sexual over-stimulation and the sexual behaviors is close, and often overlaps or is contiguous.