Examining the Nature of Adult Baby Syndrome

Psychological conditions come in all shapes and forms.

Associated behaviors, to the untrained eye, can be puzzling—if not troubling. However, people suffering from these disorders struggle to control their actions because of factors such as brain chemistry, heredity, and past traumas.

Some of these conditions can be highly sensationalized. We see psychosis manifest itself on television in the form of schizophrenia and split-personality disorders.

Another kind of disorder that's garnered some mainstream attention is adult baby syndrome. Or, paraphilic infantilism. See Wojciech Oronowicz & Magdalena Siwak. Paraphilic infantilism. The analysis of selected cases presented in media with reference to the etiological hypotheses. Przegl Seks 2016; 4(48): 10-16.

While adult baby syndrome has entered the social consciousness, it's not clearly defined in psychiatric textbooks. The nature of infantilism is uniquely challenging for field experts to pin down with their own diagnostic criteria and language.

What is Paraphilic Infantilism/Adult Baby Syndrome?

Somebody with infantilism will dress and act like a baby and is generally sexually aroused by this act.

Typically, these individuals will wear diapers, drink from a baby bottle, crawl, eat baby food, and play with baby toys. They enjoy getting spanked, being wet-nursed, and can regress to an infant-like state.

In the big-picture, infantilism is relatively new, with only three total published case studies as of 1980. These cases were all written about in the American Journal of Psychiatry between 1964 and 1967.

Here's a breakdown of what those cases entailed:

  1. A 20-year-old college student wore nappies underneath rubber pants. He didn't see himself as an adult baby but would defecate in the diaper, which would help him reach orgasm.
  2. A father, arrested for molesting his young daughters, wore rubber pants over the diaper that he urinated and masturbated in.
  3. A 17-year-old male wore nappies under his clothing, drank from baby bottles, and ate baby food. He would also masturbate into his nappy.
More Recent Studies of Adult Baby Syndrome

Another, more recent paper published in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked examined a 35-year-old single man. His desire to live life as an infant started at 12-years-old, and he began to wear nappies at 17.

Similar to the other cases mentioned, he masturbated while wearing the nappies and defecated into them. He wore up to five diapers per day.

Moreover, he spoke in a soft, childlike voice and struggled with basic adult functions, such as providing straightforward demographic information. The gentleman in question also explained that he wanted to be taken care of "by a mommy." Plus, he wished to go to a place where he could be made a baby.

The author of the case study explains frustration with this client. Everything was set on his terms and was challenging to understand due to his soft and childlike voice.

His behavior during sessions could be disturbing. He would stare at the doctor provocatively while lying on the couch and drinking from his bottle. But it was deciphered that putting a halt to such behavior would satisfy the subject's desire to be disciplined and mothered, as the psychiatrist was a woman.

Lastly, the subject's behavior made the doctor feel objectified sexually but also longed for as a mother.

Is Adult Baby Syndrome Exclusively Sexual?

One of the newest case studies looked at someone who explicitly denied sexual pleasure from the behaviors associated with infantilism. This finding suggests that identifying as a child might be its own condition. In contrast, the paraphilia (sexual arousal) could be its own issue.

This would suggest the desire to forego one's adult responsibilities and have someone to handle all essential needs.

Does Infantilism Only Take on Extreme Forms?

The case studies we've discussed look at examples where people's lives are clearly dominated by this desire to be infantilized. But there have been limited surveys that show most people afflicted are “typically male, employed, in their late 30s, well educated, and in stable sexual relationships.”

While there isn't much data on this front, the surveys suggest a spectrum for this condition. Some individuals might be hobbyists or fetishists, so to speak. Whereas others allow it to take over their whole lives.

Why is So Little Known About Adult Baby Syndrome?

Adults partaking in the behaviors associated with adult baby syndrome don't disclose much information about their condition. Experts have concluded that this is primarily due to wishing to continue with the practices. In admitting to this lifestyle, there's a strong likelihood that anyone listening will want to end all that encompasses infantilism.

Regardless, there is still much to learn about this disorder. Only time will tell if more valuable and credible information is gathered.