Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

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This is a page about a child refusing to wear underwear and other clothing items. There are numerous reasons that a child might refuse to wear certain types of clothing. It could be out of stubbornness, physical discomfort, or a range of psychological causes. Here is some advice if you are struggling with this issue.

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November 29, 2010

My 8 year old, very bright grand-daughter who reads at a 13 year old level, plays guitar and violin, and has played soccer, will no longer wear "any" pants, skirts or socks in the past month. The doctors say she has anxiety and to put her in comfy clothes and send her to school. But absolutely "no" clothes are comfy for her. She eats a variety of foods and changes of detergents have no result. She cannot go to school and is very sad; she can't go to OT or therapy as she will not keep clothes on.

By Jennie from Albany, NY


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November 30, 20101 found this helpful
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You mention therapy and OT-does this child have autistic spectrum disorder or other special needs? If so, she may have a sensory integration issue and a skilled teacher or therapist can help with a program for her. If she is not a special needs child why can she not understand that if she refuses to wear clothes she is choosing to not be able to go to school, therapy, etc.


Remind her that she can go to school, etc with all the kids when she chooses to dress like all the kids do. It sounds like there is something else going on and a psychologist/therapist is needed. She can probably go in her PJs if necessary. Is the refusal to wear clothes an attention getting behavior?

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February 1, 20110 found this helpful
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I think the problem might be the hem and labels in clothes. They make them itch, feel like spinter's. I have a 22 yr old that started months ago, first started taking the hem out of socks, then & still take the hem out of the bottom of pants & shirts.


I read alot of blogs written by autistic adults that all mentioned they don't like hems & labels in their clothes. Hope this helps.

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January 6, 20160 found this helpful
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I am in same scenario! I am seeing a specialist but in meantime Google clothing and sensory in same phrase... It is unbelievable! This is a sensory disorder! My daughter won't wear jeans or shirts or socks and I am looking for a new wardrobe and don't know where to go... She hates the seams in the shirts and in the crotch and so far I can only find seamless socks... All the sites I have googled encourage short sleeve shirts and sweats good luck!

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September 15, 20160 found this helpful
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When my daughter was 4 we had to turn the underwear inside out same with socks but the socks had to have color on the toe and heel. Still have the sock issues and it only took 8 stores this time to fine them. Underwear in ok now but now My daughter doesn't wear jeans, sweatpants or shorts. Once in a while a skirt put definitely not skorts.


She will wear dresses but they can't have a line in the front or back. Also seamless pants are ok sometimes but I have to watch which ones I buy. As for the tops to go with the seamless pants they can only be short sleeves not spaghetti straps.

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October 19, 20171 found this helpful
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I realize this is an old thread but...A person can have sensory processing disorder without being on the spectrum, although it can be one of a number of spectrum characteristics. SPD is also more prevalent in those with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. It is not attention seeking behavior and to treat it as such and reprimand or shame a child who has this disorder risks alienating a child already struggling.


These kids have a visceral reaction and it's usually an ongoing issue, although it may get worse with increased anxiety. This post reminds me that we have a long way to go in recognizing and treating neurological and mental health issues in our children and stop treating them so dismissively.

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August 26, 2019

My 5 year old daughter has developed a fear of wearing her knickers over the past few months which has gradually gotten worse to the point where she screams her head off, cries and throws herself to the floor if we try to get her to wear them. When we do manage to get her to wear them as soon as she goes for a wee she will refuse to put them back on saying she still needs a wee even though she will have spent half an hour sitting on the toilet having done 3/4 wees.

When I've asked her what she doesn't like she says it's because she feels scared of weeing in her knickers, but she's not scared when her knickers are off. It's frustrating for us because it's come out of no where and she's never had accidents before so we don't understand where this fear has come from. This has given her high anxiety which has presented in other unusual behaviours such as sucking/biting her fingers, walking round in circles, only wanting to wear the same clothes everyday and the same shoes, which have to be washed before she will put them on and wash her feet before she will put the shoes on, we are waiting for an appointment with an OT, but are at a loss on what to do until then as we have tried a lot of things to help her, but nothing we do seems to help her.

She was assessed for ASD, but wasn't diagnosed at that time as doctors where unsure as she had only just turned 4 and wanted to wait and see her again in a year. So we don't know if that could be why she's started these new behaviours, also breaking up for the school holidays has knocked her routine out so that has had an impact. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


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August 27, 20190 found this helpful

Prayers for your sweetie! I hope they can get you in sooner as I think getting professional directions is what is going to help you the most.

I have 3 suggestions


1. Do you think she would benefit from a trip to the store and be allowed her to pick the undergarment of her choice, would that help her want to wear she feels she has some control?

2. I also wonder if she is having some tactile defensiveness and the material of the undergarments she has are painful for her skin. What are the made from? Like if they are a poly material, maybe try an all cotton material or if you have all cotton try a poly material. Sometimes a change in fabric helps.

3. Have you tried the pull up diapers to help her through this phase? If she is afraid she is going to have an accident in her pretty undies, maybe find something where it is OK if she has an accident (and put the pretty ones on the outside so they are not damaged).

Please post back with an update. Sending lots of good wishes to you both for an easy solution.

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August 27, 20190 found this helpful

The change in schedule must have set her off.
I would talk to her doctor. 5 years old is old to be having these issues, especially since she was trained before.

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August 27, 20190 found this helpful

I am so sorry to hear this. My grandson started to have similuar issues with the foods he ate and not touching one another on his plate. To me this sounds like someone at school has been teasing her about wearing her knickers. I am not sure but this can also cause problems with children and how they feel in their clothes.

If your daugher only wants to wear certain clothes and she is so upset when you want her to wear her knicker it might be time to take her shopping and allow her to choose her own clothes.

Maybe it is time to take her back to the doctor and see what they can tell you about her behavior. It is not good to allow her to walk around biting on her fingers and sitting on the toilet for 2 to 3 hours at a time.

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August 27, 20190 found this helpful

Please don't give up hope. Hope is everything!! Once she gets in to the doctor perhaps there will be solutions that can help either with a therapy or a medication or both.

Maybe just back off from the topic for a while and let her stay home. Then when things have settled revisit the topic.

Can you do home schooling for a week?

Please post back when you can get her in to the doctor, what the doctor says.

You will be in my prayers.

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December 22, 20190 found this helpful

My daughter is EXACTLY LIKE THIS! there is no logical solution that she will accept and she is 6! Ive tried special sensory underwear, seamless types, boy short types, etc. We have tried cutting off the threads and edging on some other pairs. Ive tried taking her to the store and letting her choose clothes. She is missing things she wants to do because she cant tolerate underwear. We have to physically out her in the car on various states of dress so that she wont miss school. She will finally agree to something when under duress. Im waiting for an neuropsychology eval and she is starting OT for sensory sensitivity in 2 weeks. In the meantime, our family cant function properly. I am completely at the end of my rope with tantrums and meltdowns and I know she is suffering too.

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June 13, 20210 found this helpful

Hi, I know this is an old post but wondering how you got on with therapy for this. I have a 5yr old daughter with exactly same challenges and wondering what to do as getting worse. We take her shopping all the time to try and find solutions but more clothes/options does not seem to be the answer.

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August 5, 2010

My 7 year old granddaughter won't wear underwear. Mother has tried all types, she goes hysterical and breaks out in blotches on her face. Not only that she does not wear socks, dungarees, or tight pants.

Has anyone ever heard of this, and if so please advise how you dealt with the problem.

By ann from Tyngsboro, MA


7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

It sounds like she might possibly be tactilly defensive. That just means that a person is very sensitive to their sense of touch. Her body tells her that that elastic waist band, or tight socks, or stiff/rough material is painful. She has hysterics because, to her, it feels really bad, and she is still expected to wear it. Everyday. Think of it this way: let's say you really hate hot and spicy food. Burns your mouth, tastes terrible. But people keep on feeding it to you for every meal. You say you hate it, and they tell you to get used to it. Maybe they get mad at you. You can't like it, you can't get used to it. You are so upset, you get hysterical. Then they try to give you something you can tolerate. You learn to get hysterical because it works, and it is really, really important to you.

Tactile defensiveness is a sensory integration problem. Kids who have it may be unable to tolerate certain sensations, or may crave exaggerated sensations. They might hate being touched unless they initiate it. They might have certain other behavior problems that puzzle their parents and teachers. People might say they are too fussy, or that they cause trouble. You can look sensory integration and tactile defensiveness up on-line. One good site is for The Out-of-Sync Child.

All the clothes you list are very common agitators for some people. Elastic waist bands or cuffs. Form fitting socks, or loose socks that might bunch up and wrinkle. Stiff materials, rough materials. These things might not feel rough or tight to us, but they feel just horrible to her, and there is just no way for her to ignore it. If she is forced to wear it, she might stop complaining about it, but she might be fidgety and cranky and unable to focus that day because it bothers her so much.

If she is tactilly defensive, she needs some help. It's not something her mom or anyone else "should" have known. I know about it because of my education, training, and profession, and also because my grandson has a sensory integrative disorder. He is a bright, happy, wonderful 3-year old, but there are some real issues for him. Luckily, there are things that can be done to help.

If she doesn't have this problem, then adjustments just need to be made. Heck, nothing wrong with personal preference. No guilt for the little sweetie! The underwear problem might be from the elastic, so it will be tough. I don't know of any that don't use elastic. It sounds like the rest will be easier. Loose, soft clothing might be the key. Also changing detergent/fabric softener might help.

Sorry I wrote such a long response. Hope it was helpful! (05/20/2010)

By Free2B

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

With that many aversions to clothing I would suggest that she may be on the autism spectrum. Does she have other idiosyncrasies compared to her peers? She may be a high functioning autistic child or just on the spectrum, sometimes this is hereditary, is there anyone else in her mother or father's family with tactile problems or deficient in social skills? Good luck. (05/20/2010)

By susan

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

schyrest has covered the whole issue well.

As an adoptive mom, my kids had these issues along with the FAS and probably AS (aspergers). We did brushing and compressions and it helped.

Did she wear training panties? if so what is different? Softer? Elastic covered? Baggier? Tighter? Material, etc.

If she wore new underwear with tags it will feel like someone is cutting into her. The sizing in new clothes can take more than one washing to get out, another reason yard sales are best.

Hand me downs worked best, no tags. New clothes take a long time to get to the point of comfortable, lots of screaming and problems, avoid the hassles yard sales are your friend.

If you sew consider trying to make underwear (use bathing suit pattern). Try flannel or recycled t-shirt material. Try various types of elastic, there is a wide lacy type elastic that distributes the pressure vs just in one area. If they have a sensitivity to the elastic itself put in a casing (I can't wear most bras, I break out in red rash, and if I wear long enough it turns into blisters).

In the old days there was underwear similar to the new style boxers that were like shorts (no leg elastic).

My third son would only wear sweats, t-shirts from yard sales because the necks were stretched out. My second son always had to have a t-shirt under long flannel shirts (we are in Maine) because they moved and touched skin at different places. My girlfriend's dear daughter will only wear capri type tights, no jeans, or sweats if they touch her ankles (has to be pant cut not elastic). (05/21/2010)


7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

Maybe she is allergic to the laundry soap or fabric softener. (05/21/2010)

By craftyme

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

I am on the same thinking lines with Yoder and Schyresti. I would take her to the doctor and talk with them about it since it is not just the underwear! (05/21/2010)

By Teresa Tart

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

My son and first child was exactly like this. He was very specific about what clothes he would wear. No jeans, no shirts with seams, no underwear with buttons, no briefs, only some boxers. He would not wear any clothes with any metal on it. He didn't even like to look at certain color metals like on a door knob. He used our silverware at home, but everywhere else he used plastic. It drove me crazy. I bought hundreds of dollars of clothes that he wouldn't wear. I begged, pleaded and punished. Nothing worked. Finally, I gave in and let him do what felt comfortable to him and "it worked".

He is now 22 and in his final year at a great college. He turned out to be a very smart kid and got a free ride to college. He met a wonderful girl who loves him despite the fact that she can't wear earrings around him. I am so proud of him. Don't worry. Sorry so long. (05/21/2010)

By Timmie

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November 29, 2010

My 5 year old granddaughter will not wear underwear. She has difficulty with different clothing and cries like crazy if she has to wear socks.

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October 26, 2010

I have a 7 year old granddaughter who will not wear underwear or anything she feels is too tight. We've tried everything from larger sizes to trying every style of undies for children. She needs to stretch everything before she puts it on.

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