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Dr. Robert,

Recently our 6 year old son has been "collecting" my wife's underwear and bras. Two nights ago I caught him wearing a bra under his pajamas and last night he had 3 pairs of my wife's underwear on under his pajamas. We've had 3 episodes so far and he's taken these items from our room or removed them from the dryer.

Is this "somewhat" normal behavior? He is unable to give me an explanation or express why he's doing this.



Dear KC--

If an older boy were manifesting such behavior it could indicate problems with gender identity or perhaps tendencies towards later sexual fetishism such as cross-dressing. But age 6 is too early to worry about this, and your son's cross-dressing behavior at this young age is neither very rare nor abnormal.

My advice is not to make a big issue of it, but to gently, and indirectly, discourage it. I recommend that your wife explain to your son that her clothes are the kind of clothes that women wear, and that they are not for boys, but she must do this in an unemotional way without emphasis, as if stating a simple fact. She certainly must avoid making him feel guilty or ashamed. She might also tell him he is not allowed in her closet, and drawers because those are her places and things.

In addition, you personally should make every effort to be close to your son, to include him in your activities, and to show him that being a man is fun. I do not mean that you want to teach him to be "macho," but simply demonstrate to him that boys and men can enjoy their natural maleness. In other words, a firmly established male identity is the best way to prevent cross-dressing from becoming a problem.

Once again, be sure neither to punish him for this behavior nor make him feel guilty or ashamed.

Be well

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