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Mother encourages her 10-year-old daughter to masturbate

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Q. There’s a woman at work who has a 10 year old daughter and an 8 year old boy. I’ve seen the daughter masturbate in the car and in other public areas. Her mom not only doesn’t mind (or tell her to do it with privacy) but she encourages her to do it anytime she feels anxious or uncomfortable. She’s done this for years, as a replacement for sucking her thumb or carrying a favorite blanket or doll. I just think this might be setting the little girl up for trouble in the future. Is this potentially damaging to the child? Or her brother, who witnesses her do it? If this is her only coping mechanism, what should I suggest to the mom, if anything?

Mother encourages her 10-year-old daughter to masturbate

Answered by on -


This is a tricky issue since this is a co-worker and maybe someone you do not know very well. You need to ask yourself do you want to become involved in this situation since your concerns for the child could backfire and your co-worker may be greatly offended by your observation. She could of course thank you for your concern and truly mean it. The truth is, it could go either way but my feeling is that she will likely be offended.

With regard to your question about whether or not this is potentially damaging, it is likely that it is damaging primarily because the child is exhibiting this behavior in public where it is clearly inappropriate, and in front of her brother, all of which you mentioned.

My advice is this: Ask yourself if you really want to take on this matter and all of its potential consequences. Chances are your co-worker will be offended and angry at your observation. On the other hand, your remark may be just what is needed to get the child into see a counselor and finally put a stop to this inappropriate behavior (which by the way is likely a soothing technique like you suspected). If you do decide to speak to your co-worker, pull her aside privately to express the concerns. Don’t refer to the behavior as masturbating and assure your co-worker that you are a concerned friend and not someone who is judging her. Good luck.

Mother encourages her 10-year-old daughter to masturbate

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Mother encourages her 10-year-old daughter to masturbate. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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