For most sex addicts, the compulsive sexual behavior starts somewhere in childhood. (If you are interested in how this happens, click here to read about how it begins.) At some point the compulsive behavior crosses the line into addiction. Most sex addicts would not meet the criteria for sexual addiction until later on in adulthood. But certainly for some, the addiction takes root while still a child, especially in adolescence when sexual feelings are naturally increasing.
Since the behaviors of sexual addiction often can be fairly easily kept concealed from others, a child who has developed this problem may well be showing no indications that a parent, sibling or friend could detect.
The current most compelling avenue for a child’s progressing addictive activity, as with sex addicts in general, is the Internet. In homes where computers have not been equipped with software that blocks inappropriate sites and where the children’s computer activity is not monitored, it sometimes happens that children probe deep into cybersex. It is not uncommon for adolescents to post nude and pornographic pictures of themselves or to exchange them with others by email; also to engage in self sexual behavior and exchange explicit descriptions of it with someone else via live sexual chat. Especially disturbing is children’s vulnerability to be lured into sexual exploitation on the Internet by adults often posing as other adolescents. As far back as March 2001 Newsweek reported that one in five children had received a sexual solicitation over the Internet. For more information about children and the Internet, click here
The incidence of a boy starting on a path to sexual addiction is increased considerably if the primary father figure in the boy’s life is himself a practicing sex addict. In such cases, the son often stumbles across some of Dad or Stepdad’s secret sexual material, or is aware directly or indirectly of the father figure’s sexual proclivity. “Like father, like son,” as the old expression goes. On the other hand, if a sexually addicted father figure gets into recovery for his addiction, tremendous benefits can be derived by the children because the adult can be proactive in educating the children about sex addiction and making them aware of their vulnerability as well as options they have. (Click here for information for an adult sex addict who is interested in recovery from sexual addiction.) There is a corresponding advantage if the partner of a sex addict gets into recovery because the partner usually has a myriad of unconscious behaviors that dovetail with the sex addict’s and which are addictive as well. The recovering partner can help educate the children about what are called codependent behavior patterns. (Click here for the beginning of several sections pertaining to partners.) In most families where sex addiction exists (or other types of addiction as well), all family members act out unconscious roles in the addictive dysfunction.
If a parent has reason to suspect a son or daughter may be progressing toward sexual addiction, the important question, of course, is what to do? As critical as this issue is, unfortunately the attention that has been given it in the treatment and recovery fields is limited. However, there are some options. First of all, a sexual addiction specialist (a psychotherapist specializing in the diagnosing and treating of sexual addiction) would need to be located. When found, the clinician could be asked if he or she has expertise in diagnosing and treating children or adolescents regarding the issue of sexual addiction.
If the specialist determines a child is exhibiting the symptoms of sexual addiction, she or he should also be able to help you in determining if 12-step recovery program options for adolescents are available in your vicinity. Slowly 12-step groups dedicated to serving adolescents are starting to become available. (Click here for general information about locating a sexual addiction specialist. Click here for links to specific 12-step recovery programs where information about adolescent meetings can be checked out directly.)