Updated: Jun 10
by LJ Published on 09 March 2022 Claire Maskery is a Person-Centred and experiential psychotherapist who works part-time for the NHS and in private practice, specialising in developmental trauma
http://www.clairemaskerytherapy.co.uk She writes: This post is about sharing some of my experiences of working with clients who identify as regressive adult babies. I’ve been a practising psychotherapist for about six years, but I’ve worked with adult babies for longer. I accidentally fell into working with this client group and never left, to the point where this represents a significant part of my career. In working with adult babies, I came to recognise certain consistent traits clients described. However, when researching, so that I could be more informed to better work with this group, overwhelmingly the literature did not reflect the experiences as described to me. Unless one is immersed in the ABDL community, information about this group comes from two main sources; academic journals and from Main Stream Media (MSM). What appears to be common for both sources are a lack of consistency, general misinformation and misrepresentation. TV and MSM proffer salacious views of adult babies (Attack of the Adult Babies (2017) - IMDb, n.d). Representations of adult babies which focus on sexual practice are confirmed in academia, perpetuating a view of non-sexual adult baby practice as a paraphilia (Banbury et al., 2017). Clearly, this is inaccurate, non-sexual behaviour being impossible to be categorised as paraphilia. However, when society looks to academia on how to regard adult babies and finds such literature, it reinforces a view that all adult babies engage in sexual practice. This has profound implications for the lived experience of adult babies. It was for this reason that I undertook a part-time PhD researching adult babies, of which I am now, if all goes well, in my fourth and final year. Though this piece references diaper lovers, this is not the focus of this blog and it may be that you decide further research is required to support your work with that specific client group. This post is written with therapists and supervisors in mind, those who are established in practice but may not yet have a clear understanding of working with clients who identify as adult babies. As such, this post assumes a certain level of knowledge regarding issues around clinical practice, such as when client and therapist do not appear to be a good fit to work together, when issues re client work and the therapist’s process should be taken to supervision, when supervisors need to expand their knowledge-base and other such ethical considerations.
Adult babies may self-identify as Littles (Lewis, 2011) and I will use the term Little interchangeably with the term adult baby in this post. The reason some people to prefer the term Little is that the term adult baby can be seen as not fitting with experience. For instance, some people have a Little side, but it’s a self who is a child, not an infant, and as such the term ‘baby’ does not accord with their experience. Also, some people feel the term AB has become synonymous with salacious MSM output, which does not necessarily promote a representative view of their experience (Diagonal View, 2012). Here's a little background about this client group, dry but necessary; ABs are part of a community known as the Adult Baby/Diaper Lover (ABDL) community (Zamboni, 2018). These groups, adult babies and diaper lovers, may superficially appear the same, exhibiting similar behaviours such as wearing diapers (or nappies as they are known in the UK), however, the motivations behind the actions come from very different places. As such, I offer it is incumbent upon therapists, and their supervisors, to have an appreciation of the different drives being enacted, the rationale being each client group necessitates a different clinical formulation. Rather unhelpfully, it is also a consideration that as yet there is no universal definition of ABDL (Oronowicz-Jaśkowiak, 2016). It is interesting that although Oronowicz-Jaśkowiak wrote that some seven years ago, it still holds true. This demonstrates how little research there is in this field of study. Here are a few key points which may be of help, from my experience of working with the ABDL community:
There are multiple subgroups residing within the ABDL community.
It is a consideration that people may have more than one adult baby self, potentially of different ages and genders.
Diaper lovers are adults who retain an understanding they are adults engaged in behavior which is pleasurable. Their practice may, or may not, involve a sexual component (Zamboni, 2017). Diaper lovers are adults who never conceive of themselves as either playing the role of a juvenile, nor do they encounter a regressed self. Their practice may hold its origins in seeking a soothing pastime which aids relaxation. Some diaper lovers engage in sexual behaviours and this may, in certain instances, be connected to their sexual identity. Further, their practice may be a solitary activity, or one engaged in with others. Diaper Lovers retain an understanding they are adults engaged with behaviours which they find pleasurable, predominantly diaper-wearing. They tend not to play with children’s toys, finding them unstimulating.
There are a group of adult babies who may better fit the description of age-players. They retain a clear understanding they are adults pretending to be juveniles. It is a consideration that they may not just pretend to be babies but children, and therefore the term ‘baby’ may not fit with their experience. For this ABDL subgroup these behaviours are an enjoyable pursuit which may, or may not, have a sexual element in their practice. Their practice may be a solitary activity, or something undertaken with friends or a partner. It may be that their friends or partner is a care-giver, a sexual partner, or a fellow adult baby or age-player.
There is a further subgroup within the AB community; regressive adult babies. This is a group whose experience is different to that of the groups described above. This group do not play a role, but regress to a pre-verbal or child-like state. Such a regressive process is similar to clients who encounter a non-verbal self within the therapeutic environment (Erskine et al., 2014, p.68-69). This subgroup finds behaviours such a pacifiers, bottles and baby toys both soothing and engaging. This level of engagement with infantile toys is indicative of a regressed state, rather than an adult playing a role, such activities insufficiently engaging to maintain the attention of an adult for prolonged periods of time (Oronowicz-Jaśkowiak, 2017, p.27). This ABDL subgroup’s behaviour does not have a sexual element, though they may have experienced pressure to be sexual. Some Littles, due to developmental trauma (Van Der Kolk, 2014), may be vulnerable to sexual predation precisely because of their Little practice. Their juvenile behaviour is often a solitary activity, this may be because they cannot find a caregiver or because they are too ashamed of this aspect of self. However, it may be their regressive practice is undertaken with friends or a partner who acts as a care-giver, or a fellow adult baby or age-player. Regressive adult babies may present in therapy as survivors of adverse developmental experiences (Felitti et al., 1998), and as such the clinical formulation ought to be based around trauma-informed care. Such an approach necessitates embarking on the three-phase trauma approach of Lewis Herman (1992). Any client entering therapy will have unique reasons for doing so, however, in my experience regressive adult babies often present requiring psychotherapeutic work around guilt, fear and shame. Evidently, this is in stark contrast to the formulations required when working with other ABDL subgroups, as outlined above.
One more important point; many adult babies live in fear of being ‘outed.’ The greatest fear an adult baby can imagine is to be mistaken for a paedophile. I’ve heard this fear expressed so many times – and it is not hyperbole. I have supported a client who has had to move home and job, and has lost a family member because of being reported to the Police for being a non-sexual adult baby. One well-known example of the cost of such misrepresentation was when a UK paediatrician was thought to be a paedophile, and her house was vandalised and she had to move out (Allison, 2000). Many adult babies live with this fear every day. So, what do you do if a client tells you they’re a regressive Little. Just be you. Be the same therapist you always are, after all they’ve chosen you for a reason. Show them you are a safe person to discuss this aspect of self with. Welcome their Little side, offer warmth and empathy and a formulation based on what they tell you – as opposed to what MSM portrays. And finally, a warm smile goes an awful long way. References Allison, R. (2000, August 29). Doctor Driven out of Home by Vigilantes. The Guardian; The Guardian. Attack of the Adult Babies (2017) - IMDb. (n.d.). M.imdb.com. Banbury, S., Lusher, J., Lewis, C. A., & Turner, J. (2017). The Use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on Two Case Reports of Paraphilic Infantilism, Substance Misuse and Childhood Abuse. MOJ Addiction Medicine & Therapy, 3(2). Diagonal View. (2012). 15 Stone Babies [YouTube Video]. Erskine, R., Moursund, J., & Trautmann, R. (2014). Beyond Empathy: A Therapy of Contact-in-Relationships. Routledge. Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245–258. Lewis, A. (2011). Ageplay: An Adults only Game. Counselling Australia, (11), 1–9. Lewis Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Pandora. Madero, G. (2020). An exploration of the motivation and significance of roleplay within an adult baby diaper lover community [Dissertation]. Oronowicz-Jaśkowiak, W. (2017). Complex Motivational Factors for Paraphilic Infantilism-Related Behaviors [sic] by the Example of Analysis of an Internet Forum. Przegl.Seks, 4, 23–29. Oronowicz-Jaśkowiak, W. (2016). AB/DL group. Close relationships and sexuality. Sexological Review, 3(47), 11–18. Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. Penguin Books. Zamboni, B. D. (2017). Characteristics of Subgroups in the Adult Baby/Diaper Lover Community. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 14(11), 1421–1429. Zamboni, B. D. (2018). Experiences of distress by participants in the Adult Baby/Diaper Lover community. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 33(4), 470–486.