What can be the reason why some cultures and societies look down upon a parent kissing (peck) their toddlers on lips ?

I kiss my 3 year old on his lips. Have been doing it since he was very little. If an affectionate action be a bad thing, I need to understand the reasons behind this and probably take corrective measures now.

6 Answers 6


As a husband and father, I don't kiss anyone on the lips except my wife. I don't have any specific reasoning for this, I just feel uncomfortable kissing my kids when a cheek peck can serve the same affectionate purpose. On the other hand, my wife has no issue kissing my children on the lips, and I don't have a problem with that. At the end of the day, it's personal choice how you handle this based on your comfort level and culture.


In Japanese culture, kissing your children on the lips is frowned upon not because of any perceived psychological impact but instead because of concerns related to 虫歯 or tooth decay. While I don't know of any formalized studies, doctors, dentists, and other parents have frowned upon/warned against kissing children with growing teeth on the lips, especially if you yourself have had cavities in the past. The fear that those bacteria that cause tooth decay/cavities drives that cultural taboo. After a certain age when most of their "adult teeth" have come in and they are perfectly capable of taking care of their teeth via brushing/flossing/mouthwash, it becomes acceptable. By that time though, most children aren't willing to do it.

Outside of that, it's all up to the comfort level of the parent and child. Personally, even without the Japanese cultural background, I don't. My parents kissed me on the lips when I was younger. My wife kisses our son on the lips. My ex-wife doesn't kiss our two kids on the lips. I think it truly depends on the person. As @DanClarke pointed out, psychologists are split on it. However, I think this is one of those situations that you should establish your comfort level for rather than allowing some societal norm to dictate it.

  • 5
    Health-wise, cold sores / herpes simplex labialis can be an issue, too.
    – Stephie
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 7:34
  • 2
    @happybuddha yes they do, but the first set is more important than one might think. And dentists argue that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are transmitted at some point, the later the better.
    – Stephie
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 11:54
  • 1
    If you're swapping spit you can pass cavity causing bacteria and cold sores, but a peck on the lips is about as safe as a kiss on the cheek.
    – Dan Clarke
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 12:34
  • 2
    @SomeShinyObject yes many times. My lips always stayed firmly closed, so I get her germs on me, and I definitely needed a tissue afterwards, but my daughter didn't get anything from me.
    – Dan Clarke
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 12:41
  • 4
    If it‘s because of bacteria be sure not to eat from the same spoon/blow the food cold or anything that might lead to transfer fluids from your mouth to you child‘s. I think this is nearly impossible.
    – Kinaeh
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 10:09

I believe in North American culture there is split opinion on this. If I had to guess a number based on what I see in public, I'd say that there is between a 60/40 and 80/20 split (not kissing on lips/kissing on lips) depending on the exact region. This is just a guess though.

Kissing on the lips does always seem to be somewhat less common however.

"Germ" transfer is something to take into account though. Herpes, colds, flu, viruses... I think most things are perfectly happy to jump hosts regardless of how "peck-like" the kiss is.

Personally: I grew up with the idea that a "kiss on the lips" was something adults in relationships did. My parents kissed me on the cheek. I now find it odd (and to be honest a little gross) when I see someone kissing their kid on the lips. But that is just my personal opinion and not really rooted in anything other than habit.

I will not be kissing any future kids on the lips. Partly due to my upbringing (it just seems so odd to me), but also because if a kid has been in daycare... who knows WHAT they got into their mouths. I don't want to get sick anymore than I want to make a future kid of mine sick. :)


One of the more popular reasons some people think kissing children on the lips is bad is because they believe it 'sexualizes' the child and can confuse them later in life. Psychologists are split on this.

Honestly the public shaming we have seen in the past few years seems to be a fairly recent development by the new puritans who are against anything that their parents did. A peck on the lips showing parental affection isn't going to harm anyone as long as both people are healthy.


I don't remember having seen someone kiss their child on the lips where I live. I'd probably wonder what it's good for. For my personal sense it might be a little too much.

Sometimes I just feel sorry for kids that can be seen getting "a huge smack by daddy/mommy/granny" in public for greeting or goodbye or for any other reason. Sometimes with the extra load of slobber... oh boy where is peoples' sense here?? I never liked that as a child. (and I wouldn't like it now :D )

Maybe you can watch your child. Does it only endure because for an unknown reason it makes you happy? Then I'd really rethink that.


Yes, kissing a child on lips is a bad thing anywhere anytime

It can and almost surely will transmit the herpes virus. No method eradicates the herpes virus from the body. Once you have it, you keep it for life.

Living with herpes outbreaks is painful and stressful. For some individuals the outbreaks are mild and rare, for others they are frequent and severe. The virus can easily migrate from the mouth area to other parts of the body like the inside of your nose or genital area by simple contact (you touch your mouth when the virus is shedding, which you would do as it is itchy before it gets painful, and then touch your eyes or re-adjust your sweaty pants: the virus migrates nearly instantly).

For these reasons, do not share towels and do not leave your used towels around for your child to wipe their hands with.

Just how likely is it that you are infected by a strand of the herpes virus, knowingly or unknowingly? Very. The infection rate is thought to be as high as 90% in some regions for some categories of people (women having greater infection rates). You can check your odds here (if you don't already know your infection status): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemiology_of_herpes_simplex

If you want a visual, search for images with the keywords "herpes baby" or "herpes child".

  • While HSV2 is reportedly more painful than HSV1 and also more rare, the rates are converging and your child's possible future pain (which may or may not be great) is not worth a gamble IMHO.
    – PatrickT
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 19:00
  • I have not addressed "cultural" aspects because I have no moral objection to people smooching. I'll edit my answer if one day scientists discover a vaccine (they haven't despite decades of searching).
    – PatrickT
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 19:10

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