> Surveys > Lipscomb's dissertation >
search Understanding Infantilism (.org)

The Clinical Mental Health Experience of Persons with Paraphilic Infantilism and Autonepiophilia. A phenomenological research study - Chapter 5

Sections: Index- 1- 2- 3- 4- 5- a- b- c- d- References

Chapter 5 of The Clinical Mental Health Experience of Persons with Paraphilic Infantilism and Autonepiophilia. A phenomenological research study, a doctoral dissertation Dr. Rhoda J. Lipscomb, PhD, LPC, DAACS, BCPC. It is also available in PDF.

As Pate and Gabbard (2003) noted in their article about Adult Baby Syndrome, the absence of literature about working with this type of patient is disappointing to a therapist looking for the best practices of treatment. While there has been some additional work both within the academic community (Hawkinson and Zamboni, 2014), and the AB/DL community (Grey, 2006-2013), the lack of information continues. This study used a phenomenological research method to investigate the meaning of the lived experience of people to identify the core essence of the phenomena as described by the research participants (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2012).


Due to the small sample size of four men located in the state of Colorado who participated in this study, no generalizations about all men or the small percentage of women who engage in paraphilic infantilism or autonepiophilia can be conclusively drawn. The researcher’s interpretation of the interviews and questionnaires using a phenomenological research method further limits the scope of the conclusions, which apply only to the four men who participated in the study.

A larger sample size could have yielded more conclusive and accurate results with more generalizability. The attempt to use snowball sampling to discover other members of the local AB/DL community that the participants knew failed to draw any subjects willing to participate in the study. The ability to interview some female members of the AB/DL community would also have created a broader and more thorough understanding of the phenomena from the minority of this community. The addition of a sample of participants who have not sought out or entered therapy may have shed further light on the issues regarding what keeps people from seeking therapy or if they manage to learn coping mechanisms to deal with their emotions and sexuality without therapy.

Areas for Future Research

It would be recommended that additional research into the area of paraphilic infantilism and autonepiophilia continue, as well as further training of mental health clinicians to better understand this unique sexual behavior. It is clear that when people believe they will be treated with compassion, acceptance, and understanding upon entering therapy rather than pathologized or judged for their unique sexual behaviors and given the tools to help manage symptoms such as depression, anxiety, stress, shame, embarrassment, and anger, as well as learn to improve their own self-acceptance, we may finally see more members of the AB/DL community seek out rather than fear psychotherapy.

This study did not provide enough data to successfully answer the questions of what causes so many within the AB/DL community to be distrustful of the mental health community or what the mental health community could change to improve the level of trust so that more members of the AB/DL community will seek mental health care. These are areas where additional research could be beneficial.

Despite its flaws, this study does provide further evidence that psychotherapy can be beneficial to the lives of those who struggle to understand atypical sexual practices that appear at a young age despite no history of trauma or abuse and remain throughout the subjects’ lives. This study also shows that further investigation could be useful to help broaden the definition of sexual orientation beyond its current definition of the gender one seeks to have sexual experiences with. There is the possibility that fetishism is a natural expression of human variation that has been pathologized by the definition of deviance (Hawkinson & Zamboni, 2014). Due to the lack of study into the intricacies of human sexuality, we as a society fail to learn all that we could about this dynamic and powerful aspect of human behavior.

When compared to the other studies, such as those performed by Speaker (1986), Hawkinson and Zamboni (2014), and Grey (2006), most of the participants in these studies are functioning within society quite well despite their fears of disclosure. In their questionnaires the participants report that they are all college educated, employed in professional positions, three of the four are married, and all four have sexual partners who are aware of their fetishes. This is strikingly different than many of the journal articles written earlier with participants in psychiatric hospitals or other mandated treatment (Malitz, 1966, Dinello 1967, Kise & Nguyen 2011). Many of those within the AB/DL community have found inventive ways to use their atypical sexual behaviors as a means of coping with the stresses of life, yet some from Hawkinson and Zamboni’s (2014) study reported that their behavior is not designed to cope with negative emotions. The results of this study show that often members of this community use their atypical sexual behaviors as a means of self-soothing from symptoms of depression, anxiety and the stress of life.

Often they discover ways to become comfortable with their sexuality with or without therapy to assist them. The most common theme from all of the studies is that those within the AB/DL community enjoy their unique manner of sexual expression and want to be understood and accepted for who they are as individuals.

Dissertation: 2014| HTML conversion: 14 September 2014

Do you have Questions, tips, suggestions, or other feedback?

This work is copyright Dr. Rhoda J. Lipscomb, PhD, LPC, DAACS, BCPC, posted by permission. Dr. Lipscomb can be reached at dr.rhoda@yahoo.com.