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Responses of Early Childhood Educators to Children’s Interpersonal Sexual Behaviors

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There is a considerable amount of evidence in the literature that children engage in a wide range of sexual behaviors before puberty. How early childhood educators (ECEs) respond to children’s interpersonal sexual behaviors (ISBs) is especially important during the early childhood stage not only due to their roles as educators, but also protector due to their legal obligation to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse. Considering the pivotal responsibilities ECEs have in addressing ISBs, it becomes imperative to gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiences they encounter in managing such behaviors. Surprisingly, the current body of research provides limited insights into how ECEs respond to children’s ISBs. To address this gap, the present study aims to explore these topics by conducting a qualitative investigation to examine the experiences of Taiwanese ECEs who encountered ISBs among children and how they responded to these behaviors. Four themes emerged from an analysis of the stories shared by 36 ECEs: (1) being silent versus supporting children’s healthy sexuality development, (2) protect yourself versus respect others, (3) punishments versus exploring strategies to address children’s ISBs and (4) insensitivity to boundaries and bodily autonomy. This study provides guidelines for understanding the experiences of Taiwanese ECEs who encounter children’s ISBs and contributes to the training needs of ECEs about children’s sexuality development.

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Correspondence to Janet Yeh-chen Kuo.

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The author has not disclosed any competing interests.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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This study was approved by National Taipei University of Education.

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Kuo, J.Yc. Responses of Early Childhood Educators to Children’s Interpersonal Sexual Behaviors. Arch Sex Behav (2023).

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