background - results - 90s - 70s and 80s - 50s and 60s - 40s - conclusion

Understanding Infantilism (.org)

The Changing ABDL Community

-By B. Terrance Grey
Part of the Survey Project at Understanding.Infantilism.Org

The AB, DL, Etc. Survey has provided a number of insights into paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetishes, as well as those known as Adult Babies and Diaper Lovers (ABDLs.) This report compares ABDLs with different birth years. While the underlying properties of an paraphilic infantilism or diaper fetish are not expected to change, the views and expectations of ABDLs are changing, mirroring the changing culture they grew up in. Developments such as the sexual revolution and the broad growth of Internet access have made information much easier to get, and this is affecting the ABDL community. Along with learning a little about the community's history, this study shed some light on one enduring question: Are infantilism and diaper fetishes disorders, conditions, or merely interests?

Some ABDLs have struggled in isolation for decades. Others found out at a young age that they were not alone, and learned to make peace with their desires. This contrast demonstrates that infantilism and diaper fetishes can be troubling disorders for some ABDLs. They made up about 41% of the sample. That so many ABDLs (52%) tried to quit while so few (maybe 0.1%) succeeded suggests that for many, these are serious paraphilias, as opposed to mere interests. This contrast is changing with time. An ABDL who grew up when Internet access was common was over twice as likely as an ABDL of previous decades to have positive views about his infantilism or diaper fetish.

Some ABDLs have been interested in diapers for as long as they can remember. Others read about infantilism and learned to enjoy it as a new kink. This contrast demonstrates that, while there might be predisposing factors, an infantilism or diaper fetish can develop almost as if they were merely an interest. Around 7% of ABDLs became interested in diapers and babyhood after their teens. It could be argued that any who chose to develop an interest in diapers or babyhood would be more able to quit, but they would also be less motivated to do so. However, this contrast is also changing with time. The late-onset cases typically associated the start of their interests with exposure to adult diapers or ABDL themes. Since both adult diapers and ABDL themes are more visible, due to the growth of disposables and the Internet, respectively, this exposure is more common and coming at younger ages.

The rapid changes of the previous century have increased openness as well as eased access to information and to the ABDL community. As a result, the views and expectations of individual ABDLs have changed. The incidence of paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetishes might not change. However, the trend among ABDLs toward being well-adjusted, having matured within supporting communities, and free of the emotional scars that ABDLs born earlier might bear, is expected to continue or increase. While the same number might develop an infantilism or diaper fetish as a condition, fewer will experience them as a disorder. Similarly, the distinction between early and late onset is expected to decrease to a certain extent: any mechanical differences will remain, but the age differences are expected to become smaller. As the culture becomes more open minded and information about ABDL practices more accessible, it is possible that more will try them and develop an interest in them. Internally, these groups will remain distinct, but demographically, they will be more difficult to separate. Technology and culture have changed dramatically, and indirectly, the ABDL community itself is changing.

Background and Method

Recent decades have seen unprecedented cultural and technological changes. As a result, this is an opportune time to look back into the recent history of paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetishes. The core nature of the paraphilias is not expected to change. However, there may be changes due to the environment: the culture, beliefs, views, expectations, and available information. These affect, if not the course of an infantilism or diaper fetish, how they are expressed and experienced.

This report is the second that summarizes a snapshot of responses to a 38-question online survey. The first report, The Range between AB and DL, explored the distribution of various practices among ABDLs. This report will focus on the year an ABDL was born, the birth year. The oldest respondent was born in 1928, and the youngest in 1995. The distribution of birth years are shown in Figure #1. Since some surveys were incomplete, the sample sizes for specific correlations are slightly smaller than shown. In this and following plots, the birth years are in five-year groups: 1930-1934, 1935-1939, etc. The increasing trend might be due to the distribution of ABDLs that use computers frequently and have private Internet access. An older ABDL might be less likely to use computers often, and a younger ABDL might be less likely to have private Internet access. As a result, older and younger ABDLs might be underrepresented.

The AB, DL, Etc. Survey is available at the author's website. Responses are still being collected, and will be used in future research. (Edit 3/21/2010: This survey has since closed.)

Figure #1 - Sample Sizes By Birth Year

Results and Discussion

Put simply, the survey results confirm and quantify what older ABDLs have observed: the composition of the ABDL community is changing.

Born 1990 to present

The youngest group of ABDLs is, in at least one way, the most advantaged. The distribution of positive versus negative views on ones own infantilism or diaper fetish, during the teenage years, is plotted in Figure #2.

Figure #2 - Views of ABDL Urges as Teens.  This figure shows a peak of positive views for ABDLs born after 1990.  Negative views peak in ABDLs born from 1950 to 1955.

Compared to the 70's and 80's, an ABDL born in the 90's was over twice as likely to have had a positive view of his infantilism or diaper fetish during his teens. (44.4% for 1990-1994 vs. 20.0% for 1970-1989. This is significant given a 99.8% confidence interval). Specifically, he thought that an interest in diapers and babyhood was safer than other things that teens could be interested in. Others were neutral, viewing the interests as OK or weird but not wrong. (Edit 3/21/2010: For readability, this and other result sets refer to an ABDL using masculine pronouns, even though a minority of ABDLs are female or transgendered.)

The major influence during the 90's was, of course, the Internet. An ABDL born in the 90's would have broad access to the Internet at home, libraries, and schools. This access and a quick search would provide a wealth of information, including the knowledge that there were other ABDLs, what paraphilic infantilism is, and ways to access ABDL communities.

One survey respondent, born in 1990, wrote about a time when he was 12: "I already knew I liked baby things and my friends didn't, but then I found a website explaining what it really was and realized there were tons of people who felt the same way!" Another, born in 1991, wrote about when he was 13: "I was Googling random stuff and found the ARArchive. A little more clicking of links and I found the diaper community. After a few months, I realized I was part of it."

Born 1970 to 1989

In contrast to the ABDLs from the 90's, those born in the 70's and 80's viewed their interests in diapers and babyhood negatively about as often as positively. As shown in Figure #3, these ABDLs are differentiated by their views on election. The majority of all ABDLs believe that they cannot or probably cannot choose to stop being interested in diapers or babyhood: That is, an ABDL can't generally 'opt out.' Similarly, the majority of all ABDLs think that few or no non-ABDLs would be able to learn to enjoy diapers or babyhood in the same way that they do. That is, a non-ABDL can't generally 'opt in.'

Figure #3 - Election among ABDLs:  This figure illustrates the decreasing percentage of ABDLs who think they can choose not to act on urges related to paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetishism.  It also illustrates the increasing percentage of ABDLs who believe that others can learn to enjoy diapers as much as they do.  The two values cross at around 1965.

However, a change in these views was shown by the minority. An ABDL born from 1970 to 1989 was more likely to think that all or some non-ABDLs could 'opt in' than an ABDL of previous birthyears. (28.7%, compared to 11.9%. The contrast is significant given a 99.8% confidence interval. ) (1990 to 1994 averaged 22.5% but the difference was not statistically significant.)

While the Internet had an effect on some ABDLs in this age group, the transition at 1970 suggests that it was not the differentiating influence. In many cases, the Internet merely provided information. One respondent, born in 1978, summarized that at 17, he "Found a pic, did research, and it all just 'clicked'." As in ABDLs born in the 90's, this information helped create a more positive attitude. One respondent wrote "I stumbled across dpf.com, and the well-hidden secret interest I had became a "lifestyle" rather than me being a weirdo." He was born in 1979, and was 17 the time. In other cases, the event descriptions suggested a stronger influence. One respondent, born in 1986, wrote about an event that happened when he was 15. "For some reason I decided to search for Teen diapers, I have no idea why I chose that but I did and came across [understanding.infantilism.org]. After hearing of the sensations diapers provide I tried wearing blankets as cloth diapers and found I liked it."

The differentiating influence for ABDLs of the 70s and 80s might have been the sexual revolution. In 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred. These skirmishes extended the sexual revolution to include the paraphilias. No ABDLs are known to have been involved with the riots themselves, but the revolution resulted in a culture that was sexually more liberal and open. This opened new channels to discussions about infantilism and other previously taboo topics. Sexuality, previously considered a primitive urge to be controlled, became viewed as a need. Extending this shift onto an infantilism or diaper fetish gives rise to a shift towards the belief that an ABDL could not 'opt out.'

Similarly, the increased emphasis on sexual experimentation would, by extension, gave rise to a shift towards the belief that more non-ABDLs could learn to enjoy diapers and babyhood. It is also possible that the rate at which people opted-in increased. These ABDLs would naturally tend to believe that others could opt-in as well. The opt-in beliefs are correlated with the opt-out beliefs in Figure #4. About 5% of all ABDLs believe that others can opt-in, while they themselves cannot opt-out.

Figure #4 - Opt-in vs. Opt-out:  This figure illustrates the distribution of opt-out beliefs for ABDLs with a given opt-in belief.  There is a peak at 'some' non-ABDLs can become ABDLs, but existing ABDLs can 'probably not' choose to give up their paraphilic infantilism and/or diaper fetishes.

This age group is also the first to have easy access to disposable adult diapers in their teens. "I saw an adult diapers TV commercial" wrote one respondent, "and it gave me some curiosity to wear one diaper so I went to bought some diapers and I liked it." he was born in 1985 and saw the ad in 1999. In contrast to adult cloth diapers and plastic pants, which were stocked only by specialty and department stores, adult disposable diapers were more widely available and more heavily advertised.

Born 1950 to 1969

The social changes that would affect the culture that the adolescents of the 70's and 80's also affected the teens of the 60's. This is because of the trend toward more explicit and diverse adult magazines. One respondent learned about infantilism at 12, through a reader's letter in one of his dad's magazines in 1978. This might have been the letter in Penthouse Forum mentioned by another respondent, who was 16 at the time. Another respondent mentions a 1976 story about diaper dominance that he also read at 16.

A remarkably detailed account is provided by one respondent, born in 1957. "I only can say, I remember not latter than age 6, describing a fantasy to my best friend about a machine which would capture you and force you into diapers and turn you into a baby. ... I totally repressed all memory of liking diapers some time around age 10. The memory returned when I was 25, and saw an advertisement for DPF." The ad would have been placed in 1982.

This age group also saw a more pervasive line of advertising. The rise of television came with increasingly sophisticated advertisements designed to sell diapers. Like most ads, these tried to link the product with something greatly desired. These advertisements typically cast a diaper as the central expression of love between a happy baby and caring parent. One respondent, born in 1968, wrote of when he was 15: "I still wanted to wear them and seeing ads on TV made me realize that." Another respondent wrote about when he was 12: "I was at my house by myself and then I saw a diaper commercial. I don't know what happened but then I made my own diapers with my undies and cotton. I soon realized that I loved diapers." He was born in 1992. The ads were directed at adults, who assumedly associated with the parents in the parent-baby relationship. However, they were also watched by children. It is possible that they stirred a demand for diapers, but not exactly as the ads were designed to do. It is also possible that the ads provided a direction for deeper longings as those longings developed.

As seen in Figure #3, an ABDL born in the 50's and 60's was more likely to believe that he could stop being an ABDL. ("Yes" or "Probably", 8.1% for the 40's, 20.6% for the 50's and 60's, 10.3% for the 70s and 80's. Both contrasts are significant with a 99% confidence interval or greater.) However, this belief is apparently not based on experience.

Figure #5 shows the distribution of ABDLs who have sought a cure and/or gone through binge-purge cycles. Seeking a cure might involve trying to resist the urges, seeking professional help, etc. It also often involves getting rid of all ABDL paraphernalia. If the ABDL fails to resist, and gives in to the urges after a while, he might again start to build his collection of paraphernalia. Of course, he may again try and quit, again getting rid of all paraphernalia again. This is called the binge-purge cycle. ( Clearly, those responding to the survey applied this term loosely, possibly only to specific ABDL items or practices. Otherwise, the percent that suffered binge-purge cycles would be below the percent that tried to quit in each group. )

Figure #5 - Quitting: This figure illustrates the percentage of ABDLs, born in a particular five year period, that try to seek a cure for their infantilism or diaper fetish, or go through binge-purge cycles.  The two curves are similar.  Both have been dropping off starting with ABDLs born in 1970.

Figure #5 does not include data on those who have found a cure for infantilism. To date, only one surveyee (0.1%) claims to have stopped. "At one time I decided it was too 'dangerous' whilst living with my parents. So I decided I'd pick it up when I'd went to live on my own. After putting it off, I didn't really do anything with it anymore. After a while of living on my own I decided to try it once more (some Drynites pull on pants) but it didn't really give me the kick or pleasure it once did. I might, however try some 'real' diapers again, but I'm afraid it won't do much for me anymore." The surveyee could not be contacted for more information. The essay answers in the response didn't mention any method or struggle involved in quitting, but also didn't specify a lack of method or struggle. It should be noted that those who have lost interest would probably not spend much time among the ABDL community, and so might not know about the survey. The above surveyee ambiguously adds "Of course, as you can see, the interest is still there."

Since Figure #5 summarizes a great deal of suffering in the youths of ABDLs, it is worthwhile to reiterate its impact. In terms of opting out, there are three groups of ABDLs. First, there are those who have not quit, possibly because they have not tried. This represents about half of the responses. This group might be able to quit, but might not want to. Second, there are those who have tried to quit and failed. This represents about half of the responses. Thirdly, there are those who successfully quit. With one unverifiable exception, there are no responses in this group, although there might be reasons why they did not respond.

The distribution of ABDLs who are still seeking a cure or still going through binge-purge cycles is shown in Figure #6. As might be expected, these behaviors decrease with age as an ABDL succeeds or, much more frequently, gives up. The survey did not distinguish between those who struggled intermittently and those who have been struggling continuously since their youth. For some this struggle would have spanned several decades.

Figure #6 - Still Quitting: This figure illustrates the portion of ABDLs who are still going through the quitting behaviors illustrated in Figure #5.  Both curves are similar, increasing from around 5% in 50-year-old ABDLs, to around 15% in currently teenage ABDLs.

For diagnostic purposes, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) grouped paraphilic infantilism with masochism in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Starting with the third edition, revised (1987), this manual included one sentence on paraphilic infantilism. This sentence (or more recent versions of it) is still the only printed reference to infantilism in many U.S. libraries. The DSM defines paraphilic infantilism by two criteria. Criterion A, simply stated, requires that there must have been masochistic fantasies, urges, or actions for at least six months.

Criterion B specifies that the fantasies, urges, or behaviors have caused "clinically significant distress or impairment." Focusing on patients that have suffered these negative effects helps researchers concentrate on the deeply-rooted cases. However, it also biases the results, since any ABDLs that didn't have problems with their interests wouldn't be considered, even though their urges might be as deeply rooted.

The DSM also defines fetishism. Criteria A is similar, except that it specifies fetishism instead of masochism. Criterion B is the same. Fetishism has an additional Criterion C, to exclude objects used in transvestism or non-fetishistic sex. The one individual who claims to have stopped acting on his interests did not meet criterion B. He was an ABDL, but would not have been diagnosed with paraphilic infantilism or fetishism.

Figure #7 - Paraphilia by Birth Year: This figure illustrates the percentage of ABDLs who reported significant distress or impairment.  This is criterion B, which the APA uses to define paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetishes.

Figure #7 plots the distribution of ABDLs who meet criterion B. Overall, 41% of ABDLs do. They would be diagnosed as having paraphilic infantilism, paraphilic fetishism, or both. Since 1950, this has decreased by an average of 1.5% for each 5-year period. (The linear regression has a squared correlation coefficient of .48, and a 90% confidence that there is a downward slope.)

The distribution of opt-out beliefs among who would or would not be diagnosed as paraphilic is plotted in Figure #8. 26.6% of the non-paraphilic ABDLs and 16.5% of paraphilic ABDLs believed that they could or probably could stop being interested in diapers or babyhood. (The difference is significant given a 99.8% confidence interval.) Overall, 86% believed they could not or probably could not stop being ABDLs.

Figure #8 - Opt-out by Paraphilia:  This figure illustrates the distribution of opt-out beliefs among paraphilic and non-paraphilic ABDLs.  The two curves are similar.  Both have modes indicating a belief that ABDLs probably cannot opt-out of their urges.

The distribution is consistent with a large number of ABDLs with deeply rooted, compulsive urges that might or might not meet criterion B, mixed in with a smaller number of ABDLs with less rooted interests that do not meet criterion B. Mathematically, up to 85% of non-paraphilic ABDLs can be re-categorized at the distribution shown for paraphilic ABDLs. As a result, the percentage of ABDLs with paraphilic mechanisms (but not necessarily the distress or impairment) might be as high as 91%.

Born 1940-1949

An ABDL correspondent, born in 1927, commented "I think it is difficult today to imagine how different this cultural and social world was in the 1930s and 1940s. [It would seem] almost another planet." The 40s saw the end of World War II, the start of the baby boom, the publication of Dr. Spock's now ubiquitous book on "Baby and Child Care", the growth of diaper services, increasing use of day care, etc.

Given the limited number of responses from the 40's and earlier, many of the differences of this important group are not statistically significant. For example, the peak in Figure #6 was the result of one survey response. Individually, there are a few things that are clear with this group. The most important is the range of onset ages, from 3 to 53 or more. One question, plotted in Figure #2, asked about teenage views and provided an option for those who were not ABDLs in their teens. These responses were not included in Figure #2. Their distribution is plotted in Figure #9.

Figure #9 - Not Interested as Teens: This plot illustrates the percentage of ABDLs who were not interested in diapers and babyhood as teens.  The percentage is declining.

A more detailed view of this distribution is shown in figure #10. It plots the age at which interests developed or were noticed; the age of onset. Please note that except for 40+, incomplete age groups were not plotted. For example, only the 20-29 onset age group is shown for the birthyear group starting in 1975. Since this group includes some who are currently only 32, the 30-29 onset age group would have been underrepresented.

Figure #10 - Late Onset:  This figure illustrates the percentage of ABDLs with particularly late ages of onset.

One surveyee, born in 1948, wrote about when he was 3: "I was a bed wetter, and my mom would make me wear diapers when we went to family functions and show all of my cousins me in diapers to try and shame me into stop wetting the bed. It didn't work." Another respondent, also born in 1948, recalled having a "general fascination with diapers and plastic pants" at 7. Still another respondent, born in 1949, conveys an observation about himself at 4. "I always wanted to wear diapers. I think I was born with these feelings."

A few other respondents wrote from the other end of the spectrum. One born in 1947 wrote about an event 50 years later. "I had an active fetish of wearing girl's gym suits with bra and panties. I ran across the story '30 days in diapers' through a search for 'gym suit.' The idea of wearing a diaper sounded interesting to me and after a while, I decided to try it." Another respondent, born in 1946, wrote about an initiating event that occurred when he was 53. "I came into contact with adult diapers when my Mom went into a nursing home. I tried on a diaper, thinking it would be convenient for masturbation. Then I looked the matter up online and discovered the idea of adult babies." The latter of the two met Criterion B, while the former did not. Since there were few respondents in their middle ages or older, it is possible that even older ages of onset occur but are not represented in the survey results.

Diagnostically, the ABDLs with late ages of onset are useful. An ABDL who's urges surfaced early in his life can't be certain whether those urges were with them from birth, or developed later. In contrast, those with a late age of onset were mentally and sexually mature when their infantilism or diaper fetish developed.

Conclusion

Over the past half century, the lives of ABDLs have changed dramatically. During this time, there has been a lingering debate about whether ABDLs have a disorder, a condition, or merely an interest.

The APA's current definitions for paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetish are explicitly disorders. If an ABDL is not significantly distressed or impaired by his or her interests in diapers or babyhood, then he or she is not diagnosed with a paraphilia. About 41% of ABDLs would be diagnosed as having a paraphilia. As there is a negative impact, it would be a disorder for them. They might try to stop and might engage in destructive binge-purge cycles. No paraphilic ABDLs who responded to the survey were able to quit, even though a minority have been trying to quit for decades. For them, it is clearly not a choice, not a mere interest. There are underlying mechanisms at work driving these chronic, compelling urges. However, this negative impact may be partially cultural. Negative views, social prejudices, moral intolerance, etc., might be partially at fault for the distress or impairment. With increasing cultural awareness and access to information, ABDLs are viewing their interests more positively. The probabilty that an ABDL will meet the criteria for paraphilic infantilism or diaper fetishism has been decreasing at about 0.3% per year since birthyear 1950.

The current APA definition excludes any ABDL who did not suffer significant distress or impairment. Since 86% of all ABDLs believe that they cannot or probably cannot stop being interested, it seems reasonable that it is more than an interest for this second group as well. It is possible that most ABDLs, even though they do not meet the criteria to be diagnosed as paraphilic, also have similar driving mechanisms at work. Since this group isn't driven by significant distress or impairment, they might not try to quit, or not try as hard. The above suggests that for this group, their infantilism or diaper fetishes might be a condition not too dissimilar from being left-handed. That is, a chronic condition with an unknown cause that isn't disabling, but is sometimes awkward because it makes one different. Fortunately for those who are left-handed, the stigma associated with their condition has long since disappeared. The stigmas associated with infantilism and diaper fetishes are progressively being replaced with information.

These results also displayed a third group, which is mechanically different. Most ABDLs became aware of their interests at an early age. Some believe that their interests were always there. In contrast, there is a minority of ABDLs that experienced a much later onset. The latest onset in the survey results was 53. Clearly, if these individuals had been driven to become ABDLs from their youth, they would have known about it before reaching middle age. Typically, these ABDLs described an external event that wasn't simply related to diapers or babyhood in some way, but to adult use of diapers, ABDL activities, etc. Perhaps this is due to a predisposition that was present, but without expression. More simply, it might be a mere interest that they chose to develop. This third group is expected to become less visible in the future, as people become exposed to adult diapers, diaper fetishes, and paraphilic infantilism earlier in life. This type of onset is not expected to decrease, but increase. The 'late onset' cases will be occurring later in history, but earlier in life.

That is, the diagnostic clues used to differentiate the above three groups are disappearing. To complicate research even further, none of the above data suggests that there are only three groups.

Without question, this is a thrilling time to be studying paraphilic infantilism and diaper fetishes. The effects of a world war and two revolutions are seen in the views and expectations of ABDLs. As a result of the changing external influences, the youths and lives of these ABDLs are changing. Indirectly, the ABDL community is changing. It is becoming younger, better informed, and better adjusted.


- Updated:21 March 2011  1st:18 Feb 2007     

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