To evaluate the clinical impression that young girls are given little or confusing information about their genitals, a sample of 117 mothers with 1− to 4-year-old children were asked which words for genitals, if any, they used with their children. The ethnically and socioeconomically heterogeneous sample was composed of 63 girls and 54 boys, with the average ages of 26 and 29 months, respectively. Neither boys nor girls were likely to be given a standard anatomical genital term, although many children received colorful colloquial expressions. However, girls were less likely than boys to receive a term for their genitals. Receiving names for genitals was related to certain family circumstances, such as higher parental education, exposure to adult male nudity, having a sibling of the opposite sex, and cosleeping. Pediatric health professionals have the opportunity to contribute to early sex education by conveying accurate information regarding genital terms in the course of routine physical examinations.
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