The search for the naked truth
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
By Gregory Ramey
There are many opinions about undressing in front of children, but
few facts, writes Gregory Ramey.
I WAS recently asked about the age at which children should no
longer see their parents naked. I responded that parental nudity
around children is a matter of personal preference, and parents
should be guided by what feels comfortable for them and their
I had no research basis for telling the reader that children
beyond a certain age should no longer see their parents in the
Response to that advice was intense. "You're nuts," suggested
one reader. "I have a three-year-old daughter, and I would never
let my husband parade nude around the house in front of her. Where
are your morals?"
Several parents said they felt it was wrong to ever undress in
front of their children, and no so-called "expert" was going to
tell them it was ever acceptable.
An acquaintance who grew up in Europe severely criticised my
advice from the opposite perspective.
Within her family, nudity around the home was common. She felt
it contributed to a much healthier view about her body and
sexuality. Such a casual atmosphere about nudity prompted many
discussions that she felt helped protect her from premature sexual
activity and sexual abuse.
"You lost a great opportunity to educate parents about the
importance of teaching children healthy attitudes about their
bodies and protecting children from sexual molestation," she
While I respect both viewpoints, neither position can be
justified by scientific facts. Parental nudity is a matter of
style, and no expert can give a specific age that applies to all
families and circumstances.
I would feel extremely embarrassed and, therefore, would never
take my two children to a nudist camp. However, as a professional
psychologist, I am not willing to declare that all parents who take
their families to nudist camps are harming their children. My
decision is based on my personal preferences, not professional
Within reason, parents should use their own values, morals and
styles to raise their children in a way that seems right to them.
They shouldn't look to some "expert" to argue that their way is the
one and only way to raise all children.
When it comes to family nudity, parents (particularly those from
other cultures) have a variety of approaches. Your way may be right
for you, but it doesn't make it the only way for everyone.
However, there are times when parental nudity is wrong. In some
instances, nudity by one parent is a way to condition a child to
later sexual exploitation. These are situations where adult nudity
is intended for sexual stimulation.
This is a type of sexual abuse that warrants immediate action by
a responsible adult. If you have any such concerns about your
spouse or other family member, please take immediate action.
We are a culture that looks to experts for answers. We feel that
there is a right way, and only one way, to do most things.
Concerned, and perhaps overly anxious, parents look to experts to
help them through the most important job of their lives - raising
While I hope you find my advice helpful in giving you different
perspectives, please continue to rely on your own good sense and
intuitive judgment. When it comes to issues such as family nudity,
also recognise that what works for you may not be the only way for
the other 6 billion people in the world.
The New York Times