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8 - Development of sexuality: psychological perspectives

from Part I - Normal development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 May 2010

Lih Mei Liao
University College Hospital, London
Adam H. Balen
Leeds Teaching Hospitals, University Trust
Sarah M. Creighton
University College London Hospitals
Melanie C. Davies
University College London
Jane MacDougall
Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge
Richard Stanhope
Great Ormond Street Hospital
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In biomedicine, there are morphological and biochemical characteristics that can be measured with varying degrees of accuracy, rendering it more possible to describe variations in physical development and to define typical ranges. Sexuality dimensions, by comparison, afford no such luxury. “Normal” sexuality is contentious — in psychology and in society — and is destined to remain so.

What do psychologists have to say about human sexuality and its development? Why do some psychologists test children for “gender-appropriate” toy preferences, while others “un-define sex differences”? The simple answer is that they subscribe to different theoretical viewpoints, ask different questions and use different research methods to address their questions. The aim of this chapter is to describe and discuss key psychological perspectives in sexuality development. It is not possible to be a neutral presenter of rival positions, so I should make explicit my own biases. While I have come from a positivist framework and still apply that knowledge in selective projects, I have found that this framework alone is not adequate for examining and addressing sexuality events that are presented to me in clinical settings. My current view is that individual sexuality events cannot be understood without reference to cultural representations of such events. I hope it becomes clear why many psychologists now find it important to integrate discursive analysis in sexuality studies.

Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology
A Multidisciplinary Approach
, pp. 77 - 94
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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