Healthy sexual relationships are built of physical, emotional and relational skills developed over a lifetime.

Growth Stage Developmental Tasks

Consider that skills are Introduced, Practiced, and Mastered over time.

NO ONE gets all these in the time frame suggested. EVERYONE has challenges in healthy sexuality.

Almost all skills can be learned later than indicated.

Birth to 1yr Discover some body parts- toes, tongue, ears, hands, and fingers

Grasp toes, hands, penis

Explore the world with tongue

Perceive the source of sensation, i.e., grasp foot-feels sensation in foot

Trust caregivers to respond to cries and cues for food, comfort, and physical closeness

Mirror movement, expression, emotion, i.e. smile in response, make eye contact, imitate sounds and expressions

1yr to 3yrs Explore entire body

Discover pleasurable sensations

Learn to self-stimulate, i.e. rock, hold hands w self, put food in mouth

Learn to manage elimination-pee and poop

Inhibit aggressive impulses (somewhat)

Deal with saying No and hearing No/ boundaries and limits

Learn names for body parts

Absorb family attitudes and rules about nudity and sex- shame or self-acceptance, showing body for humor or attention

Demonstrate some gender identity (in some children) choosing trucks or dolls

Express traits such as empathetic or self-absorbed, cooperative or competitive, task oriented or people oriented

3yrs to 6yrs Develop socially acceptable behavior-learn the rules

Compare body to others, realize genital differences

Formulate an idea of where babies come from

Introduced (hopefully) to rights and privileges as related to responsibilities

Feel sexually, and/or romantically possessive of someone, i.e. opposite-sex parent

Recognize and accept/question/reject gender identities and roles

Internalize family attitudes about gender and sexual orientation- accepting or shaming, flexible or rigid

Play mommy/daddy/baby pretend games, often switching roles easily

Develop conflict resolution skills- beat ‘em up, talk it out, cry, take turns, walk away, isolate, shout and dominate, give in

6yrs to 12yrs For some, sex goes underground here, for some, it is very much part of everyday life

Hormones may begin to stir causing sexual/physical and emotional upheaval

Begin to identify as boyfriend/girlfriend

Experience first cooperative sexual encounters for some

Experience first sexual violation for some


Seek out porn or research of various kinds

Instruct each other verbally, or physically- some correctly, most not

Learn to accept body as a rapidly changing vehicle-learn to love what is, or be fearful, ashamed, self-rejecting

12yrs to 15yrs Explore sexual self, self as a sexual being- power, pleasure, shame, attraction, desire, arousal, orgasm

Appreciate and care for body

Encounter explicit sex education classes so mechanical as to seem to not be relevant to actual sex and procreation

Learn to relate to others romantically, sexually

Accept self and other people as different and valuable

Negotiate for freedom from parents

Dating-asking, being asked and saying no, accepting no, where to go, who pays, who drives

Begin transfer of leadership from parents to friends with the attendant values clash/identity crisis

Have a first crush or first date

Begin or master use of social media with its free for all of uncensored sexual, aggressive, misinformed, and sometimes innocent and supportive chatter

Learn to give self an orgasm, usually not reliably

Explore sexual behavior with other people

Begin to develop a personal relationship with sex as strictly physical pleasure-seeking, or a casual friendship thing, or power play, or spiritual connection or some combination

Avoid judgment of others as poison to one’s own sense of safety and self-acceptance

15yrs to 18yrs Juggle shared pleasure vs sexual selfishness

Use sex to get love/love to get sex or a more respectful approach to friendship, romance sex

Figure out what you like: figuring out what your partner likes

Ask for what you like, accepting requests and denials

Say what you will do won’t do and defending that choice under pressure

Talk about sex with partner, parents, friends, health care providers etc

Love and care for the body as it is

Become aware and accept feelings, thoughts, needs, wants, behaviors

Gain skill at managing responsibilities, strong emotions, other people’s needs

Choose virginity/exclusivity/playing the field/abstinence and promiscuity

Become close with someone outside the family

Deal proactively pregnancy risk, birth control and condoms, disease transmission

Become pregnant and choose to keep, abort or offer for adoption

Gain some competency with personal sexual response-his erections and ejaculation, her arousal and orgasm

Respond to reputations and sex- ‘geeks and studs’, ‘sluts and prudes’

STOP with giving and accepting judgments about other people or from other people

Ladies take responsibility for your pleasure, not for his

Develop an interest in mutually satisfying sex/become aware of the possibility of sexual teamwork

Choose dating, hooking up or not…and what’s the goal?

18yrs to 24yrs Stick with or abandon earlier decisions about sexual activity

Begin to fledge/leave parents’ home

Hook up, date, abstain, marry, monogamy, on the side…back to what’s it for?

If settling into relationships, getting past the limerance/ crazy in love phase with a sex life we can enjoy

Learn 5 kinds of touch-affectionate, sensual, playful/sexual, erotic, and intercourse

Manage the physical and logistical challenges of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and babies under 5-who has the energy for sex?

Manage being/not being in a relationship, how do we feel about that, about ourselves, how do we resolve decisions and conflicts and how do we have sex?

Learn to delay ejaculation for most men or bring ejaculation for some men, and avoid shame for either

Women and some men learn to orgasm with a partner and realize that we needs their input in order to be a sexual team

Experience heartbreak and unhappy sex and the risk of loving and getting hurt

Learn how and when to share input and feedback on what gets me in the mood, how to signal interest and initiation, how to build the flame (see levels of touch), when to move to the next ‘gear’, what makes her come, what helps him delay orgasm, what kind of spice/fantasy/fetish each likes.

24yrs to 30yrs Babies in the bed, undone dishes, too much work, too little money, conflicts everywhere-sex as a refuge, shared work-load is a path to shared sexuality

Keeping sex safe from the pressures of life and creating a sacred time and space

Hot monogamy, not monogamy, and the asexual marriage- explicit and unspoken expectations and rules

Develop a couple sexual style and rhythm that works: who initiates, who benefits

Avoid the same-old, same-old scripted routine

Make rules that are cooperative, explicit and workable that create emotional and sexual safety

Accept aloneness: do we pursue sex in relationships or independent of relationship, or become abstinent or asexual

What is the purpose of sex, and are we finding sex that is desirable, satisfying, pleasurable?

Learn to be flexible with Good Enough Sex

Maintain physical health-cardiovascular, blood sugar and skeletal health- critical to your sexual future

Attend to various aspects of relationship-love, romance, intimacy, friendship, sex

30yrs to 40yrs Learn to work at health- cardiovascular health is critical to sexual function

Enjoy sex with kids in the house- 2 year olds and 15 year olds

Make time and space for sex

Accept the maturing body, loving what is, letting go of idealized body images

Attend to feeling good about yourself and carrying, caring for, dressing and moving in your body

Avoid the scripted sex life; create a pleasurable, flexible, satisfying couple sexual relationship

Flow through changes in health, lifestyle, body, conflict, disappointment, conscious desire with communication and adjustments to behavior

40yrs to 50yrs Keep healthy

Accept self as body mind heart and soul

Accept partner as same

Oh, Hello, Pain-In-The-Body! You will not run/ruin my life Or my sex life

Identify as a sexual and sexually desirable middle-aged adult

Embrace the increasing investment in time, lubricants

Accept his occasional lost erection and her slower arousal without anxiety and shame

Mind the choice to medicate and what medications and side effects- this stuff influences desire and other aspects

50yrs to 60yrs Commit to health

Know, accept and communicate changing wants and needs

Listen to the wants and needs of your partner

Slow the approach to intercourse and let go of erection and orgasm as ultimate goals of sex

Enjoy intimacy and pleasuring or being pleasured without expectation of particular outcomes

Adapt to menopause and a less vigorous male sexual response

Depend more on our partner to help us build to erotic flow- men needing time to build arousal

60yrs to 90yrs Continue commitment to health

Affirm self as a sexual person

Beware the magic pill, they can help but are better used a small player in a larger strategy

Enjoy the fact that female response may be more vigorous and reliable than male response-learn to piggy-back his arousal on hers

Focus on quality and pleasure rather than quantity and performance