Sexual Stages

Questions about sexual stages? You're not alone.

If you have lots of questions about sexual stages, you are not alone. Even the term can have many meanings. For example, we could be talking about three very different topics:

  1. Psychosexual development – Learn more
  2. Sexual response cycle – Learn more
  3. Tanner stages of puberty – Learn more  

Sexual Health at Every Sexual Stage

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” This means that childhood sexual development includes multiple facets, not just physical changes. If sex education is to be effective, it must begin early and address every sexual stage of development.

Bright Futures, an initiative led by the American Academy of Pediatrics, offers helpful information and guidance for supporting healthy sexual development. Read Promoting Healthy Development of Sexuality and Gender Identity for more information.

Healthy Childhood Sexual Development

Since we are focusing on children going through puberty, let’s focus on the stages children experience as they develop sexual maturity. Most adults don’t know what these sexual stages are because they were never taught about this topic. Also, research is scarce because parents and schools don’t want to give permission for studies related to sexual development in children. This means most of the research focuses on children who have been sexually abused instead of children who are developing in a sexually healthy fashion.

These charts explain healthy childhood sexual development for ages 5 to 12:

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