Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 451–466 | Cite as

Attitudes and responses of parents to pre-adolescent masturbation

  • John H. Gagnon


As part of a larger study of parental roles in sex education, a stratified probability sample of 1482 parents of three- to eleven-year-old children were interviewed about their knowledge, attitudes, and practices with reference to “masturbation” on the part of their children. A large majority of parents accepted the fact that children did masturbate, a smaller majority agreed that masturbation among children was alright, but less than half wanted their children as adolescents to have a positive attitude toward masturbation. Identified events of masturbation were reported to be more common among boys than girls, with mothers reporting higher incidences for both boys and girls than fathers reported. Parents with higher levels of education and liberal sexual attitudes were more positive on most attitudinal items about masturbation and reported a higher incidence of such conduct among their children. Parents who attended church more frequently were less likely to report positive views and conduct. Parents who reported they had masturbated as children were most likely to report positive views and a high incidence of masturbation on the part of their children. In general mothers played a more important role than fathers in transmitting knowledge and were more liberal in their attitudes. Negative information and attitudes toward masturbation remains a common response of parents when they are confronted with children's masturbation.

Key words

masturbation sexual learning parental attitudes childhood sexuality gender differences 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Gagnon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyState University of New YorkStony BrookUSA

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