Children, Social Nudity,
and Scholarly Study
By Mark Storey (Professor, Bellevue Community College, Bellevue, Washington). This article was published in 2005.
Nearly every mother will attest to her toddler's readiness to scamper about the house and backyard naked. Children feel at ease in the nude until parents teach them that it's "wrong," "indecent," or "shameful." Children must also be taught that it is somehow inappropriate to see their family nude, for such ideas would not come to them naturally.
Popular authorities on child-care from Benjamin Spock to advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail van Buren have often warned of dangers to children should they see others naked. For Spock, this ill-formed message arises from his early reading of Sigmund Freud (Storey 69-70). Syndicated advice columnists read Spock's counsel in his Baby and Child Care (420-21), and accepted his word as academically reputable.
Legislators have taken the claims at face value, and, without checking to see what scholars have actually said, pressure North American parents to blinker children from ever viewing the human form. Bob Morton, Chair of the Naturist Action Committee, points to a trend in North America for proposing legislation banning family social nudity on the basis that the "offending" adult may be "grooming" the child to be more receptive to sexual abuse in the home. According to Morton, the U.S. based National District Attorneys Association is now saying that a potential child molester can be identified as one who "aims to get the child comfortable seeing nudity".
The fear that seeing naked people in some way harms children is not supported, however, by academic research. The small handful of studies on this topic in psychology and sociology have shown, instead, that children reared in an atmosphere containing family social nudity may benefit from the practice. If this is true, then proposed laws outlawing either social nudity in the home or children's participation at naturist (or nudist) settings are unjustified.
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