Sexual Development in Early Childhood: Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers. Think of self-touch of private parts as a similar activity to when your child sucks her thumb or snuggles with a soft blanket. Even as infants, children are capable of sexual arousal; newborn baby boys can have penile erections.
The sense of being male or female (called gender identity) is a part of sexual development that usually begins around two or three years of age and continues throughout life. Gender identity involves recognizing gender roles that are defined by society and demonstrating behaviors commonly associated with being male or female.
Sexual Development from 0 – 18 Months Old. Between birth and 18 months, children begin to differentiate between female and male roles. Between birth and 18 months, children discover their genitals and begin to touch themselves for pleasure. Children this age are not masturbating to orgasm.
One final realm, or channel, of child development is gender identity and sexuality. Many people believe that sexual development does not become an important issue until puberty and adolescence. However, children begin showing sexual behavior and interest in their sexual functioning starting in infan.