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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Little Boys In Women's Locker Room

Written by  Alan Flashman, MD

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,

In my neighborhood pool, mothers often bring their four- and five-year-old sons into the women's changing room. This seems to me not to be in the best interests of the child. In fact, I think it's a subtle form of sexual abuse. I'm sure we wouldn't bring our five-year-old daughters into the men's locker room. At what age should parents stop bringing their children into a dressing room of the opposite sex?

AIn many families, mothers do not conceal themselves from their sons at the age of four and that seems to be something with which boys can get along. But the idea of a four- or five-year old being confronted with female nudity on a mass scale probably puts too much of a burden on the child. He would not be likely to express any embarrassment, bewilderment or excitement that he may feel and so the mother would not be easily able to figure out what is happening to her child.

The proper age to stop bringing children into a dressing room of the opposite sex is when a mother can clearly see that her child is starting to feel uncomfortable. But since, such signals are hard to read in these circumstances, I would err on the side of caution and stop between the ages of two and three.

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Alan Flashman, MD

Alan Flashman, MD

Dr. Flashman is a graduate of Columbia College and New York University Medical School. He trained and completed board certification in pediatrics, psychiatry and child psychiatry at the Albert Einstein college of Medicine in the Bronx. He's been working with and learning from children and families for more than 30 years. He speaks and consults regularly on many topics in child and family mental health, including adoption, drug and alcohol addiction, emotional strains of physical illness in families, death and bereavement.

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