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Levine, M.I. (1951). Pediatric Observations on Masturbation in Children. Psychoanal. St. Child, 6:117-124.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 6:117-124

Pediatric Observations on Masturbation in Children

Milton I. Levine, M.D.

No person can long remain in the practice of pediatrics without observing the genital play and masturbation of infants and children, and without being deeply impressed by the extreme importance placed upon this activity not only by parents, but also by relatives, religious educators, and even by physicians themselves.

In the course of his daily practice, the pediatrician is able to observe the activities of children while in his office and during the periods when visited at home. It is also possible for him to observe the attitude of parents when the child handles his genitals. And occasionally, parents, disturbed by the masturbatory activities of their children, present their anxieties to the pediatrician.

A careful observer can determine the age at which genital play first appears, the manner and frequency of genital play and masturbation during the developmental stages of the child, occasionally the relation of this activity to anxieties of childhood, and the evidences of concern of parents, and guilt of children.

It should be understood that the present paper is by no means intended to review the subject of masturbation or even to report on previously published observations. It is merely an attempt to relate personal observations, many of which were recorded shortly after having been made. As might be expected, the greatest number of observations were on children under six years of age.

If one observes a great number of children from earliest infancy, he is able to follow the gradual development of the activity of the hands and arms. Once the infant has gained the ability to manipulate his hands, he apparently learns very quickly that touching certain areas of his body is especially pleasurable. Of course, the first of such areas is the mouth.


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