"Playing doctor" is a phrase used colloquially in the Western world to refer to children examining each other's genitals.[1] It originates from children using the pretend roles of doctor and patient as a pretext for such an examination. However, whether or not such role-playing is involved, the phrase is used to refer to any similar examination.[2][3][4]

Playing doctor is distinguished from child-on-child sexual abuse because the latter is an overt and deliberate action directed at sexual stimulation, including orgasm, as compared to anatomical curiosity.[5] Playing doctor is considered by most child psychologists to be a normal step in childhood development between the ages of approximately three and six years, so long as all parties are willing participants and relatively close in age. However, it can be a source of discomfort to some parents to discover their children are engaging in such an activity.[6] Parenting professionals often advise parents to view such a discovery as an opportunity to calmly teach their children about the differences between the sexes, personal privacy, and respecting the privacy of other children.[3]

A study by American sexologist Alfred Kinsey published in the book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948), found that 36.6% of all 10-year-old children practice heterosexual and homosexual doctor play. [7]

See also


  1. ^ "Is Your Preschooler Playing Doctor?". FamilyEducation. Retrieved 4 September 2009.  Excerpted from: Boyd, Keith M.; Osborn, Kevin (June 1997). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler, Too. USA: Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0-02-861733-6. 
  2. ^ Pike, Lynn Blinn (January 2001). "Sexuality and Your Child: For Children Ages 3 to 7". University of Missouri Extension. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Clayton, Victoria (6 August 2004). "Playing doctor: How to teach kids about inappropriate touch". Growing Up Healthy. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  4. ^ Heins, Marilyn (2004). "Sex Play: parenting strategies". ParentKidsRight. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Loseke, Donileen R.; Gelles, Richard J.; Cavanaugh, Mary M. (2005). Current Controversies on Family Violence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. ISBN 0-7619-2106-0. [page needed]
  6. ^ "I Caught Them Playing Doctor!". FamilyEducation. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2009.  Excerpted from: Pantley, Elizabeth; Sears, William (June 1997). Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-8092-2847-8. [page needed]
  7. ^ Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, ISBN 978-0-253-33412-1.

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