Items of published research

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Resources for Families, Parents, and Educators  

These items illuminate some of the elusive effects of Naturism on development into adulthood. This list is not exhaustive. It represents some of the most useful material regarding nudism and its effects on children's development, and thus its effects on families and societies.

Some of these resources are from research journals, and some are from scholarly books, while most are not. A wide variety of materials for parents, educators, activists and legislators is included. Some of the journals and magazines may need to be ordered from a university library.

Why do so many of these resources use the term "sexuality" instead of "nudity"? Many authors still see nudity/nudism and sexuality as inextricably entwined, yet their material is useful for this discussion. Studies cited elsewhere on this site are included here. Below, the information in brackets summarises the topic or target audience.

Go to the summary.

Go to the 'fine detail' items.

A short glossary.

The superscript number at the end of each item
refers to the relevant publication's listing.

A summary of research on the effects of nakedness on young people.

These researched articles have paragraph summaries [in square brackets] of their meaning for Naturism.

'The ego grows through the perception and integration of body sensation on the one hand and the expression of feeling on the other. If a child is inhibited in the expression of feeling or made to feel ashamed of his bodily sensations, his ego will not mature. If he is prevented from taking the measure of himself, from exploring his strength and discovering his weaknesses his ego will have a precarious foothold on reality and his identity will be nebulous. it however, he is indoctrinated with "should" and "should not" and brought up to fulfil a parental image, his ego will become devious and his identity confused. Such a child will subvert his body and manipulate the environment to maintain the image. He will adopt a role based on this image and he will equate his identity with this role.' 1 p259.

[The dangers of the perceived 'role' expressed]

'The feeling of identity is not present at birth, An individual develops his identity as his ego grows and matures. The problem is to achieve a sense of identity by developing a stable and well-functioning ego. The feeling of identity is based on the awareness of desire, the recognition of need, and the perception of body-sensation.' 1 p259.

[The importance for development of having a good body-image.]

As age increases, the need for conformity is more apparent to children. It was evident through many children's answers that low-level thinking was conveyed through parents' modesty training, and that the need for body privacy was a strong inducted value deduced from the results of this study. It does indicate, however, that the sex education process has to overcome myriad adult mythologies and rationalisations that prevent children from understanding, accepting, and enjoying the body and its sex organs as natural and normal. 18

[Naturist children have a significant developmental advantage.]

'Scalf-Milver & Thompson (1989) found that appearance-evaluation was positively correlated with family cohesion, but negatively related to family conflict.' 14 p16.

[Naturist families are more likely to reflect 'family values' than be disrupted.]

'It is not so much the body but the view we take of it that causes problems.' 15

[There needs to be an improvement in community awareness of the need for openness about the body, for the children's sake.]

'Children construct a model of their relationships with others that is heavily phrased in a body vocabulary. They learn to make judgements in body-image terms about such basic issues as what is good and bad, attractive or threatening. Although adults often trace their important life-decisions to logical cognition, it is probable that such decisions occur within an influential non-verbal framework of "body-standards" for the way things should be. I anticipate that we will eventually be able to show that most judgements are affected by coded messages from the body "sounding- board." Perceived events are constantly being translated into patterns of feeling at pertinent body sites, and these patterns, in turn, feed back to and modulate central perspectives.' 5 p.xiv.

[A sensitive masseur recognises that he's actually massaging the brain!]

'Positive feelings and altruistic behaviour seem to be related to the development of the awareness of one's own body-image as distinguished from that of other persons.' 11 p40.

[Naturists are likely to be more altruistic and positive than average.]

'Numerous studies have documented the increased conformance and moralism brought on by intensified self-awareness.' 5 p13.

[First is learned conformance and morality (convention). ] [But adult awareness and realisation moves one from 'normal' to 'natural'.]

'Specifically, the level of teasing during adolescence was negatively associated with physical-appearance evaluation as an adult - more teasing led to poorer evaluation of the body-image. (Thompson & Psaltis, 1988)' 14 p16.

[Children of naturists are likely to better withstand teasing than average.]


Marilyn Story took a stratified national sample of United States 264 children aged 3-5, set out to discover the body self-concepts of the children and which factors were associated with the more positive ones. 7

The subjects were asked which parts of their bodies they liked best 'No difference was found as to what body part was liked least according to sex, race, or area of the country. However, the relationship between body part liked least and nakedness-classification was significant, with naturists most often answering that they had no body part that they liked least, while non-naturists most often named genitals as least liked.' 7

[Children of non-naturists are likely to dislike their genitals.]

Only two factors - the child's sex and the nakedness classification of the family - were found to be generally significant. 7

'In a further breakdown of the sex and nakedness-classification factors, naturism was found to be a more important variable than sex. Social naturist males scored higher than non-naturist males and higher than non-naturist females. Social naturist females scored higher than non-naturist females, and also scored higher than non-naturist males. All of these differences were significant.' 7

[Naturism was found to be the most significant variable (more than sex) in body self-concept score levels.]

'The relationship between adult sexual functioning and childhood exposure to nakedness, sleeping in the parent's bed, and parental attitudes toward sexuality was examined. Although a variety of experts have provided their opinion on this issue, empirical research has been lacking. In this study, male and female college students were asked to retrospectively report on the frequency of sleeping in the parental bed as a child, the frequency of seeing others naked during childhood, and parental attitudes regarding sexuality. Information on current sexual functioning and adjustment was obtained. The results suggest that childhood experiences with exposure to nakedness and sleeping in the parental bed are not adversely related to adult sexual functioning and adjustment. In fact, there is modest support that these childhood experiences are positively related to indices of adjustment. Results also suggest that a positive attitude toward sexuality can be beneficial for a child's comfort with his/her sexuality. 8

'Perhaps one of the most important findings of this research is the absence of any relationships between retrospective reports of parental nakedness, exposure to nakedness in general, sleeping in the parental bed, and sexual adjustment problems.' 8

[Naturists' children, as adults, show no sexual maladjustment problems.]

'In an attempt to determine whether naturists differ significantly from non-naturists on tests which purport to measure body-concept, 249 naturists and 190 non-naturists were compared. A derivation of the Secord-Jourard Body-cathexis scale and a sub-scale of that derivation were used.' ... 'The findings replicate the findings of Blank, Sugarman & Rosa (1968), which showed that naturist females scored higher than non-naturist females.' Naturist males also scored higher than non-naturist males. 12

[Naturists body-cathexis score is confirmed to be higher than that of non-naturists, for both males and females.]

'Should people wear clothes, even in warm climates? North American children, appeared most adamant about the wearing of clothes while Swedish children were the least. The opinions of the English-speaking children differed considerably from those of the Swedish children. The most insistent arguments for wearing clothing even in warm climates were seen in North American children, followed by the English, then the Australian, and then the Swedish (in spite of the fact that Swedish winters are long and severe). This would appear to indicate that cultural influence is stronger than climate, as in Sweden sex education is compulsory after age 8, and the social acceptance of a more open approach to sex may influence children's judgements. This cultural difference is not as evident when examining the reasons for wearing clothes, and why people should feel embarrassed when naked. The picture revealed by children's perceptions was one in which nakedness, and especially sexual nakedness, is strongly tinged with guilt. 18

[Children are negatively impacted in proportion to the clothes-compulsiveness of their culture.]

Esteem 10

There is mounting evidence that people in our culture are estranged from the experience of their bodies. What Laing (1965) calls the unembodied state - of feeling the body more like one object among others than the grounding of an individual's being - is becoming the most common mode of experiencing one's body. Jourard (1976), as well as Laven (1967) see a connection between body experience and physical and psychological health.

The experiment reported here is an extension of those studies in which the experiences of the body and the body-image are conceptualised as an index of the way in which a person structures his relationships with others, how open and free he can be with others, or how disclosing he can be with others. This study investigates the relationship between an individual's self-disclosing and body-disclosing behaviour.

The author drew upon current research in self-disclosure and body-image, and hypothesised that self-disclosure and body-disclosure would be directly related. ... Subjects were matched for sex, past disclosure and willingness to disclose to someone of the opposite sex. A social nakedness experience was provided for one group, an outing day was provided for the second group, and a third group received no treatment. ... [In the subsequent self-disclosure sessions] subjects who had undergone a body-disclosure experience disclosed more to each other than did subjects in the other groups. Subjects also tended to like themselves better after the social nakedness experience. Furthermore, they described the body-disclosing day as a peak experience.

With regard to the self-disclosure session, subjects gave more similar statements irrespective of group. However, differences in experience were highlighted by the predominantly positive attitudes that treatment-group members reported about the dialogue, as compared with mixed attitudes by members of both control groups.

Statements that resulted from a phenomenological analysis of the subjects' descriptions of their trip and self-disclosure session were compiled and compared. There were about twice the number of experiential statements about the trip for the experimental group compared with the outing control group. A complete description of each group experience was made. Experimental group members liked the trip, loved the way people made them feel comfortable, and felt good to be naked with others in a natural way. They described the body-disclosure day as a peak experience. By contrast, outing members liked their trip, but made no other experiential statements about the day.

Analysis of variance of the subjects' self-cathexis change-scores yielded significant differences. ... The mean change-scores for the full-treatment group, outing-control and naive-control groups were 8.2, 2.3, and 1.6 respectively. ... The treatment group differed significantly from both control groups.'

[Naturist novices show an enduring, four-fold improvement in self-esteem, over the control groups' average.]

These experimental results supported the hypothesis that subjects who participated in a body-disclosure treatment would relate significantly more openly to each other in a future, clothed meeting than would control subjects. In addition, it was discovered that the effect on each person's level of self-disclosure was generalised beyond a body-sexual content of disclosure topic. This is impressive because it might be expected that, at best, one's experience of body-disclosures would affect only one's disclosures on topics of similar experiential reference. Although persons in our culture are often defensive, this research suggests that when they undress with others in a socially acceptable environment, their experience of body-disclosure can help them to suspend verbal defences and participate in honest dialogue, even after they are clothed again.


We see from Yates, Story, Lewis and Janda, and the Goldmans, that there is convincing evidence that children's exposure to nudity is actually beneficial in a social setting.  17

[Children's exposure to social nudity is definitively beneficial.]

[Studies showed that] 'children of naturists were more favourable in their body judgements than non-naturists.' 5 p61.

[The Sussman] subjects were matched for sex, past disclosure, and willingness to disclose to someone of the opposite sex. A social nakedness experience was provided for one group, an outing day was provided for the second group, and a third group received no treatment. Testing included a tape-recorded self-disclosure dialogue, and ratings of body-attitudes (Body-Cathexis Scale). Finally the subjects were asked to write their subjective "experience of the experiment." Subjects who had undergone a body-disclosure experience disclosed more to each other than did subjects in other groups. Subjects also tended to like themselves better after the social nakedness experience. Furthermore, they described the body-disclosing day as a peak experience.  6

[Naturist novices show an enduring, almost four-fold improvement in self-esteem, over the control groups' average.]

Families who only practised nakedness at home, as well as those who practised it socially, were studied. 'Naturists scored higher [in body self-concept] than non-naturists. ... "At home only" naturists scored lower than social naturists, but higher than non-naturists. All of these differences were significant.' 7

[And more important than gender.]

The results of the research speak clearly, and with force: children's exposure to nudity is not only not harmful, it appears to be beneficial. However this seemingly clear relationship is not at all clear to most parents, nudist or non-nudist. Nudists are still widely (and erroneously) perceived in our society as sexual deviants: people who obtain sexual stimulation by engaging in nude recreation. Those who are not nudists have no direct personal experiences to disprove this fallacy, and many nudists are afraid to reveal their status for fear of being ridiculed, prosecuted and persecuted. 17

New Zealand law establishes the: 'right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.'16

Thanks are due to Nobilangelo Ceramalus for unearthing of most of this research.