David Beckham defended by parenting experts for kissing daughter on the lips
‘It's just a sign of affection’
David Beckham has once again defied critics and publicly kissed his seven-year-old daughter on the lips in a move that some people are deeming “inappropriate”.
The pair were photographed while watching the England women’s football team play Norway in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Thursday evening.
Beckham has been criticised in the past for kissing his daughter on the lips, most notably by Piers Morgan.
The Good Morning Britain presenter described a video, which Victoria posted on Instagram Stories showing her husband giving Harper a kiss on the lips during a family boat trip in Miami, as “creepy”.
Is there something sinister about kissing your child on the lips? Or is this just a harmless show of affection.
The Independent spoke to parents, psychologists and child-rearing experts and found the vast majority disagreed with Morgan. Here's why.
Dr Victoria Khromova, child and adolescent psychiatrist, parent coach and founder of Emerging Parent:
"Children can't distinguish between parental and romantic affection"
"At that age children don't really distinguish between general affection with parents or friends and romantic affection, it's kind of all the same to them. So with a short kiss on the lips like that Harper is probably seeing it an extension of normal parental affection.
The real question is: When do you start to help your children distinguish between behaviour linked to romantic affection and behaviour linked to friends and family affection? I don't think there is a right answer.
I think children need to know this by the time they are hitting puberty (which in the case of girls can be around 11) because it informs the general education about how to navigate romantic and sexual, and non-romantic and non-sexual relationships differently.
What really governs when parents decide to stop those signs of affection that can be misinterpreted is how aware they are of what the adults around them perceive as OK. I suspect in the UK at the moment there's a very heightened sense of what is and isn't appropriate because of the recent investigations into various celebrities who have been sexually involved with children. So I imagine that currently society would swing towards starting to educate children about the differences in those behaviours earlier.
Of course, if he was not her father, than it would be entirely inappropriate. Most kids can understand that this kind of kissing is reserved for only the closest people and they usually do count their parents among those."
Jack Walker, 36, from Shropshire – father of a seven-year-old son
"I kiss my son everyday, sometimes on the lips"
"People seem to go straight to 'a kiss on the lips means something sexual', but kissing someone has a number of meanings – the one thing they have in common is they're all a way of showing affection. It could be that people are uncomfortable with public displays of affection. We are British after all.
Showing someone that you love them is wonderful. Physical contact is also vital to a child's growth and emotional wellbeing. As soon as my son was born, the midwife placed him on my chest, skin to skin, while my wife was being attended to. A child's confidence will grow if they know they can express themselves.
I kiss my son everyday, sometimes on the lips, sometimes on the cheek. My son knows he has the right to decline. When he was a baby I used to give him a little kiss but now he's seven I ask if I can give him a kiss. He knows he can say no to things that make him uncomfortable."
Ollwyn Moran, neurological developmental therapist and CEO of Cognikids:
"Why sexualise this behaviour?"
"Showing love and affection to your child is so important. There are numerous scientific studies that highlight the importance of this.
Furthermore, what concerns me most is what is in the minds of those people that call out this natural behaviour. Why sexualise it?
It is those that operate behind closed doors with inappropriate behaviours that are more worrisome, not the likes of the loving parents like the Beckhams."
Lisa Wolfe, psychologist working in mental health for children and families:
"Common sense would dictate if it’s something perverse"
"This obviously displays comfort and a close relationship that you’d see with father and daughter. My concern is that it is being construed as a dark or incestuous thing because of where were are in society.
It’s almost as if it’s a societal shift causing this controversy. We’re back to normal behaviour and a normal behaviour being perceived as incestuous or inappropriate. Common sense would dictate if it’s a genuine show of intimacy or something perverse."
Richard Daniel Curtis, author and behaviour expert:
"It's important to restrict this behaviour to family"
"At this age children are able to tell the difference between adult behaviours and care-giving or signs of affection from a parent to a child. In my opinion a peck on the lips is unlikely to have a negative impact on the child's development at this age. It is important, though that this is restricted to parents or siblings, so that it does not become normalised behaviour with strangers, then I would be concerned.
However, as children approach pre-teenage years and the start of puberty, this is the time to reduce these behaviours, so they do not get confused."
Sophia Bearman, 32, from Durham:
"I kiss both my parents on the lips"
"To me, kissing someone is positive. It’s a sign of affection, love, security and protection – everything a child looks for in their parents regardless of their age.
I kiss both my parents on the lips and will continue to do so for as long as I can because I love and adore them and it's just a small way of showing how much I do and how grateful I am to them for everything they do for me."