Today I would like to ask for a consultation on a certain behavior- namely, taking off all one’s clothes.
Davonte is 12 years old, and is small for his age. He has a history of extreme abuse, and has lived in 19 places. He exhibits many problem behaviors, such as aggression and threatening. However, one of the most common is taking off all his clothes and coming out of his room. He often makes statements about how great his body is and how he will someday be on magazine covers. Sometimes he will respond to and matter of fact directive to get dressed, other times that will lead to a full fledged meltdown.
What is the adaptive function of this behavior? What does it communicate and/or accomplish? What needs does it meet?
We see this behavior quite regularly, in boys and girls, in younger children and in adolescents. Often children take off all their clothes within a crisis, but other do so in every day times and when it is unexpected.
Obviously this same behavior means different things to different youth, but what are some of the possibilities, just to start us thinking?
Some possibilities that occur to me are:
1. To shock and get a reaction
2. To keep people away
3. To test whether someone is going to molest them or use them sexually
4. To determine whether people will accept their real, true self
5. To replicate what they saw in their family
6. Because a child is uneasy about his or her body, they want to see if people are revolted
There must be many other thoughts.
I am sure that Davonte does not disrobe because he is happy about his body and wants to show off how wonderful it is. Instead I feel certain his behavior comes from a place of fear and shame, in which he fears that there is something inadequate, awful and disgusting about his body.
Have you had experience with this behavior in your settings? How have you come to understand it? How have you and your team responded?
Please click on comment and share your experiences so we can all learn from each other.
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