Information Sharing

Seven Year Olds

Dear all,

An elementary girls’ boarding school in Uganda attracted public outrage last week when the headmistress reportedly expelled three pupils. The girls; each aged between seven and eight years were accused of engaging in sexual experimentation with fellow pupils.  Parents are up in arms and are threatening legal action against the school administration for failing to mentor pupils and resorting to expulsion. Most email responses from the public are blaming parents for leaving children at the mercy of Television.

The Uganda Counseling Association will be visiting the school for intervention. The New Vision newspaper is writing a deeper feature story to enlighten parents and teachers on this matter. As the newspaper’s parenting columnist I have been asked to write an informed opinion on this. The most pressing question at the moment is: Can children as young as seven engage in sexual experimentation? The public feels expelling such pupils from school is an act of ‘high handedness’. Any research done on this? What can parents or teachers do to deal with this? I’ll appreciate your opinion on this matter.

Jamesa Wagwau

2 Comments to “Seven Year Olds”
  1. Dear Jamesa and other NPEN listserv subscribers,

    NPEN now has a Research Committee, and one of our goals is to connect parenting educators to research and scholarship on topics of interest to them. I read your question, and decided to forward it to my colleague, Dr. Spencer Olmstead (Assistant Professor of Child & Family Studies, University of Tennessee), who conducts research related to sexual health. He offered this information:

    “Children begin engaging in exploratory sexual behaviors at very young ages, starting as young as preschool age (3-4 years). Although I am not familiar with the literature on sexual culture and practice in Uganda, when talking with children in the age described (7-8 yrs) it is important to take an approach that does not close children off or lead to shaming. Using questions that will help provide description and discussion of the behavior, and perhaps where they learned about these behaviors, will help parents know how best to promote healthy sexual practice and decrease the likelihood of engaging in undesired or unhealthy sexual practice. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has an information packet called “Sexual Development and Behavior in Children” (by Drs. Heather Coleman and Grant Charles) that I have found incredibly helpful in educating about age appropriate sexual behavior and warning signs to which parents should attend.”

    Dr. Olmstead attached that PDF, but you can get it by googling “sexual development and behavior in children information for parents and caregivers”

    Hope this helps!

    Heidi Stolz

  2. Chair, NPEN Research Committee

    Here is an article of mine on the subject of child sex play: