Nudist and Non-Nudist Perceptions At Variance

Body self-concept is an important part of overall self-concept because individuals function within the boundaries of their physical bodies. Lower or negative body self-concept scores have been associated with undue anxiety, lessened ability to enter into intimate expressive relationships, and decreases in motor abilities.

Three- to five-year-old children can validly identify body self-concept. Numerous studies involving older children have indicated significant differences between male and female responses to body self-concept tests - but no such difference has been well defined in younger children. In addition, no earlier studies had examined the role of family social nudity classification on body self-concept development. This study may be the most useful resource for nudist families, as it tries to establish a relationship between the two.

Marilyn Story (1979) interviewed 264 three- to five-year-old children and their parents. These subjects were chosen and matched based on family nudity status: social nudist, "at-home-only nudist," or non-nudist. Subjects were all North Americans, with approximately equal numbers sampled from all geographic regions in the United States.

The parents were individually interviewed to determine the children's ages, sexes, weights, and birth order. Each child was given an individually administered test, consisting of the interviewer pointing to a body part on a line drawing of a nude child the same race and sex as the child being interviewed, and asking, "Do you like your _______ ?"

This was repeated for 16 body parts (although the study did not state which specific body parts were listed). While viewing the drawings, the child was also asked, "What part of your body do you like best? Why?" and "What part of your body do you like least? Why?" The answers to these questions were categorised and assigned numerical values.

For non-nudist children, answers to the questions "What part of your body do you like best?" and "What part of your body do you like least?" showed no relationship to race or geographical location. Gender was significant, with females most often liking their hair, eyes, nose or mouth, and boys liking their arms or genitals; however, non-nudist girls and boys most often named their genitals as least liked.

For nudist children (including "at-home-only" nudists), answers to the above questions yielded very different results. Both boys and girls most often stated that their genitals were the best liked part. Nudist boys and girls also most often answered that they had no body parts they did not like (although they often expressed dissatisfaction with their skin: not because of racial colouring or deformity, but because of sunburn or too little tanning).

Story also found that nudism was a more important variable in body self-concept than were sex, race, and geographical area. The relationship between nudism and body part least liked was significant (roughly a 1 in 10,000 probability of being only a random result), as discussed above.

In the analysis of the 16 body part test, nudist males scored higher than non-nudist males and females, and nudist females also scored higher than non-nudist males and females. When nudity classification was not a variable, the differences in scores were far less significant, with nudist males scoring higher than nudist females, and non-nudist males scoring higher than non-nudist females.

Family nudism was found to have a higher correlation to increased body self-concept than did sex, race, or geographical area. Nudist children consistently scored higher than non-nudist children did in all areas of body acceptance, self-concept, and self-image.