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Human development is a lifelong process of physical, behavioural, cognitive, and emotional growth and change. Throughout the process, each person develops attitudes and values that guide choices, relationships, and understanding. Sexuality is also a lifelong process. Infants, children, teens, and adults are sexual beings. Just as it is important to enhance a young person’s physical, emotional, and cognitive growth, so it is important to lay a foundation for an adolescent’s sexual growth. Adults have a responsibility to help young people understand and accept their evolving sexuality.
A surge of sexual interest occurs around puberty and continues through adolescence. This heightened sexuality may be caused by a number of factors, including bodily changes and an awareness of them, rise in levels of sex hormones and increased cultural emphasis on sex and rehearsal for adult gender roles. Evidence of this heightened sexuality particularly reflects in masturbation.
The chart given below can be helpful in understanding the events that occur in the context of sexuality. The straight line in the middle represents the lifeline of a person and has the age numbered with the interval of 5 years. The row above the line is for females and the row below the line is for males. This chart is derived from one of the training sessions where the individuals were asked to pin the life events according to its occurrence. It is important to note that different people have different opinions on the age at which these events occur and the chart mentioned below does not give a strict description of any society. Such lifelines can vary a lot in different settings, cultures and societies. But above all, it helps us to understand that:
Sexual behaviour is an expression of love, intimacy and sexual desires and cannot be confined to a certain age group, but is part of a ‘sexuality continuum’.
The need for expression of love and sexuality differs across the age groups. Children’s sexuality is about discovering, being curious and learning by playing games and imitating adult behaviour.
Sexuality is an important factor in a person’s psychosexual development. It deals with both the culture and individual.
The release of hormones prior to puberty and the resulting action of sex hormones not only produces physical growth, but also triggers emotional and psychological development. The physical changes of puberty disrupt an adolescent's body image and self-concept, causing anxious comparisons with the sexual development of peers.