IES: Croatia

Index EuropeCroatia

Štulhofer. et al. (2001)[1] on masturbation:


“In the past, the autoerotic behavior of children and adolescents had an extremely negative connotation, derived both from Catholic tradition and nineteenth-century medical concepts. If discovered, children were punished for masturbation. Masturbatory practice, especially in preschool children, was viewed by the parents either as their own failure in child rearing or as the child’s developmental disorder. As a result, numerous adolescents grew up troubled by guilt feelings.

During the 1980s, adolescent masturbation was gradually normalized. A similar thing happened with the autoerotic behavior of children in the 1990s, at least within urban culture and educated circles. Nowadays, parents generally accept the fact that masturbation is a universal practice of children of both sexes. More and more, it is regarded as a normal expression of children’s curiosity and body explorations. However, if a child masturbates excessively (seven to eight times a day), experts suggest that parents should pay close attention, because this can be a sign of urogenital infection, neglect, or child abuse.

In a survey carried out on a large sample of urban adolescents, ages 18 to 20 just starting college, 52 percent of female students and 7 percent of male students reported that they never masturbate. One-in-two males masturbate once a week or more frequently; among female students, this is the case with one in every ten (Štulhofer, Jureša, & Mamula 1999)”.



“No data exist on the sexual activities of Croatian children. In the 1990s, child sex abuse erupted, both as a moral panic and as a public recognition of a grave, long-suppressed, and overlooked problem. As an unfortunate result, systematic research on childhood sexuality is currently regarded as far too controversial. […] According to the research on the sexual behavior of adolescents in Croatia carried out from 1971 to the present, the proportion of adolescents with sexual experience is increasing and the age of sexual debut has decreased somewhat. […] The first sexual activities among children, often of a same-sex nature, are understood as exploratory play and, therefore, are perceived by most parents as a part of the growing up process. For most gay men, adolescence represents the period, confusing and conflicting, in which the self-defining process and confrontation with social expectations begin. Finding yourself different from others makes it equally hard to be accepted, as well as to accept your own difference. Bisexual feelings and activities are often a part of this self-defining phase. Unlike a couple of decades ago, first same-sex contacts and intimate relationships occur mostly among peers. Contacts between adolescents and adults, it seems, have almost disappeared”.

Among Zagreb adolescents, a majority of adolescents talk about sexuality with their friends, 92.1% of general high school and 81.2% of medical high school students[2]. 6.9% of medical high school students had at least one sexual intercourse while none of the general high school students had been sexually active at the time of the survey. Knowledge of reproductive matters is “poor”[3]. According to an earlier study[4], 70% of male and 23% of female high school students in Croatia-Yugoslavia stated that they had masturbated. Of those who had masturbated, 15% of males and 20% of females expressed fears that masturbation might be “unhealthy”, and 6.7% of males and 14.4% of females reported having guilt feelings after masturbation. 45% of males and 42% of females said that they had engaged in “petting” behaviour. 56% of males and 18% of females said they had had sexual intercourse. Of these, 55% of males had experienced it by the age of 16, and 48% of females by the age of 17. Five percent of the subjects had not heard of any method of contraception, and 70% of the females had not used any contraceptive. 81% of the subjects thought that homosexuality was “inappropriate behaviour”. Croatia lacks a comprehensive school-based sex education curriculum[5].


Additional refs:


·        CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: East Central Europe, p31-48


·        How do perceptions of gender roles shape the sexual behaviour of Croatian adolescents? WHO Social science research policy brief Series 1 No.1 August 2004 []



Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Apr 2005


[1] Štulhofer, A. et al. (2001) Croatia, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed-in-chief) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Vol. 4. New York: Continuum. Online ed.

[2]Bukovic, D., Lakusic, N., Kopjar, M., Maricic, I., Fures, R., Mahovic, D., Marjan, D. et al. (2000) Attitudes, behaviour and knowledge on sexuality among female adolescents in Zagreb, Croatia, Coll Antropol 24,1:53-60

[3] Dzepina, M. & Prebeg, Z. (1991) Zastita reproduktivnog zdravlja adolescenata [Care of reproductive health in adolescents], Lijec Vjesn 113,5-6:136-9

[4] Vlatkovic-Prpic, M. & Trenc, P. (1976) [Adolescents and sexuality], Psihijatrija Danas 8,3, Suppl. 4:271-6

[5] Hirsl-Hecej, V. & Stulhofer, A. (2001) Urban adolescents and sexual risk taking, Coll Antropol 25,1:195-212