Playing doctor

"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.[6] However, it can be a source of discomfort to some parents to discover their children are engaging in such an activity.[7] 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.[8]

See alsoEdit


  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. NBC News. 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. ^ Sexual Development and Behavior in Children: Information for Parents and Caregivers (Report). American Psychological Association. 2009. doi:10.1037/e736972011-001.
  7. ^ "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]
  8. ^ Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. ISBN 978-0-253-33412-1.