Understanding Children's Attachment to Security Blankets

Baby girl (3-6 months) lying on blanket
Your child's security blanket is much more than a blanket. (Image: Marc Debnam/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Parents often worry that a child’s attachment to his security blanket denotes insecurity or weakness. As a result, children are sometimes traumatized when pressured to let go of their blankets or soft toys before they are ready. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, security blankets are just a natural part of growing up and are eventually given up.

Significance

Security blankets provide children with emotional support, and this explains the depth of their attachment to them. Usually the security blanket or soft toy has a special name, and a child will be absolutely devoted to it. Children need these items to feel safe, to withstand fear or pain and to handle being away from their parents. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children select a security blanket between 8 and 12 months of age and hang on to it for several years.

Identification

Security blankets are often known as transitional objects, because they help children transition from dependence to independence. These transitional objects work primarily because they are tactile reminders of home, and they feel cuddly. Security blankets personify all that is positive and comforting in a child’s world -- her room, her own scent. Her attachment stems from the familiarity of the object, and its value lies in its capacity to help her be on her own.

Benefits

Some children adopt a security blanket to adjust to the emotional changes brought about by weaning. Weaning a baby is an emotional event for the child and his mother, because breastfeeding is an intimate activity that nurtures a very strong bond between mother and child. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a security blanket can be especially beneficial when incorporated into a child's bedtime ritual.

Theories

A study published in the journal Cognition in 2007 suggested that a child may become attached to her security blanket or toy because she believes it has an inimitable property or essence. The two principal researchers, Professor Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol and Dr. Paul Bloom from Yale, drew parallels between children’s behavior with their blankets and adult behavior with memorabilia -- namely, the belief that certain sacred inanimate objects house invisible properties or contain some essence of their original owners.

Misconceptions

Security blankets sometimes promote thumb sucking, which concerns many parents. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this habit is nothing to worry about. Thumb sucking, like security blankets, is a normal, natural method that young children employ to self-soothe. The attachment is temporary. In time, children forgo security blankets as they develop other stress-management techniques.

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